2009 Solar Decathlon

U.S. Dept. of Energy - 2009 Solar Decathalon
After class today, I dropped by the Mall to check out the annual Solar Decathlon, a design competition for homes powered by the Sun. The showcase on the Mall featured solar powered homes from 20 different universities. The competitors are rated on comfort (humidity, temperature), engineering (innovation, functionality, reliability, efficiency), energy meter (produce as much energy as you use), hot water systems, lighting design, market viability. architecture, and communications (presentation via websites and public display).

pondMy favorite part of the displays were the outdoor gardens. Many planted herbs and vegetables. The one pictured here is Virginia Tech’s water garden. I suspect there’s a purpose beyond aesthetics for having the deck pond but I didn’t go in for the guided tour. Being the local school, their line was probably the longest, wrapping around the house.

Univ. of Illinois-Urbana Champaign As of today, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is winning. Because of the long lines, I only went into the Illinois one. Pictured is the kitchen inside. I imagine it can only comfortably house up to two people because there’s only one queen sized bed.

There was also a display that discussed energy consumption in a home and ways to save energy such as using triple pane windows and argon gas in between the panes. I learned cooking with a microwave saves a significant amount of energy compared to conventional stovetop or oven cooking. Also, dryers use a lot of energy too. That’s why all the houses had clothes lines on their decks in addition to washer/dryers.

Prior years that I went to this event, it was on weekdays during lunch hour where there were no crowds, but I don’t recall ever entering a house, so this was pretty eye-opening. The Illinois one was about the size of a trailer. I half expected them to show me that the bed could flip up into the wall or something.