July 20, 2007

Students Gear Up for Third Solar Decathlon
Contest takes place in October on the National Mall

Carnegie Mellon University’s design uses a long mechanical core with three living-pod appendages.Summary: Twenty college and university teams from 11 states as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, and Spain will build individual, solar-powered houses to create a “solar village” highlighting various sustainable design techniques and tools promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy exhibits this October on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the village will be open to the public October 12–20. The contest, made especially timely by current public interest in all things green, has architecture, engineering, and communications students competing to “design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar powered house.” The AIA is one of the title sponsors of the event.

MIT’s design has as one of its goals to create a design that is “a delight for the consumer, combining good design, adaptability, and flexibility with a great place in which to live.”10 parts
Although the decathlon is subsidized by DOE, teams raise funds from Solar Decathlon sponsors and other private sources to design, publicize, build, and compete. Rules dictate that houses be single-story, with optional lofts, and of about 800 square feet. Like its ancient Greek namesake, this decathlon sponsors competition in 10 parts. The contest categories for this year have been refined from years past:

  • Architecture requires the teams to build houses that embody “firmness, commodity, and delight”; it is the only category in which contestants can earn up to 200 points
  • Engineering awards students points based on engineering systems and viability and energy analysis (150 points)
  • Market viability awards points based on how well and easily the design can be brought to market (150 points)
  • Communications challenges teams to communicate their experiences to a wide audience through Web sites and public tours (100 points)
  • Comfort Zone judges whether the houses maintain a steady, uniform, comfortable temperature and humidity throughout. Full points for this contest are awarded for maintaining narrow temperature (72–76°F) and relative humidity (40%–55%) ranges inside the houses (100 points)
  • Appliances requires that students maintain certain temperature ranges in their refrigerators (34–40°F) and freezers (-20–5°F) during the competition. They must wash and dry 12 towels for two days, cook and serve meals to contest officials for four days, clean dishes using a dishwasher for four days, and operate a TV/video player for up to six hours and a computer for up to eight hours for five days. Points are awarded for this contest through measurements and task completion (100 points)
  • Hot Water encompasses the “shower tests”; teams aim to deliver 15 gallons of hot water (110°F) in 10 minutes or less (100 points)
  • Lighting allows teams to earn points by designing functional, energy-efficient, and aesthetically pleasing lighting systems (100 points)
  • Energy Balance requires teams to use only the energy generated by their PV systems to provide all of the electricity for the contests; teams earn full points if the energy supplied to the batteries is at least as much as the energy removed from the batteries (100 points)
  • Getting Around has student teams using electricity generated by their solar electric systems on their houses to charge their street-legal, commercially available electric vehicles; points are awarded based on how many miles each team completes (100 points).

“An open house leaves room for a world of change” is the slogan for NYIT’s entry.The overall winner will be announced October 20.

This year’s Solar Decathlon is the third competition; the inaugural event was held in 2002, with the second decathlon in 2005.

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For more information, visit DOE’s Solar Decathlon Web site.

To learn more about these and other team designs, visit the “Team” section on the Solar Decathlon site.

Schools competing in the 2007 Solar Decathlon are:
• Carnegie Mellon University
• Cornell University
• Georgia Institute of Technology
• Kansas State University
• Lawrence Technological University
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• New York Institute of Technology
• Pennsylvania State University
• Santa Clara University
• Team Montréal (École de Technologie Supérieure, Université de Montréal, McGill University)
• Technische Universität Darmstadt
• Texas A&M University
• Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
• Universidad de Puerto Rico
• University of Colorado
• University of Cincinnati
• University of Illinois
• University of Maryland
• University of Missouri–Rolla
• University of Texas at Austin.

Joining the AIA as title sponsors are the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers; National Association of Homebuilders, the U.S. Breen Building Council, BP, and Sprint.

Did you know . . .
The decathlon from which the Solar Decathlon draws its name also features 10 contests. They are the 100-meter run, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter run, 110 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500-meter run.