If you haven't been following the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon since its first run in 2002, you've been missing out. The Solar Decathlon invites teams of college students from around the world to submit ideas for a net-zero energy house of approximately 800 square feet. 20 of these teams are then selected to fully plan, design, and build their homes.
For the event itself, the competing teams bring their houses--literally, the whole house--to the Mall in Washington, D.C. where they are open to the public for several days as well as to judges. Each team's home is judged in ten different arenas, among them Architecture, Comfort, Affordability, Market Appeal, and Energy Balance. The team with the highest points in any one category wins in that discipline, while the team with the highest overall points wins the Decathlon.
Each Solar Decathlon is a two-year event, broken up into planning (first year) and execution (second year). The 2007 and 2009 events were both won by teams from Germany. Germany, however, was not among the schools selected to compete in next year's event, though the 2011 Decathlon will pit teams from five countries and four continents against one another. So who will win this time? The contestants are:
- Appalachian State University
- Florida International University
- Middlebury College
- The New School and Stevens Institute of Technology
- The Ohio State University
- Purdue University
- The Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology
- Team Florida: Florida State University, The University of Central Florida, The University of Florida, and The University of South Florida
- Team Massachusetts: Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell
- Team New Jersey: Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey and New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Team New York: The City College of New York
- Tidewater Virginia: Old Dominion University and Hampton University
- University of Hawaii
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- University of Maryland
- The University of Tennessee
- New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington
- Team Canada: University of Calgary
- Team China: Tongji University
- Team Belgium: Ghent University
You can learn more about the competing teams and about the event on the Solar Decathlon's official website. Here are just a few of the concept models for the competition, to whet your appetite...