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    Solar Decathlon 2009

    by Katherine Gustafson

    In mid-October 2009, twenty teams of engineering and architecture students erected houses on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the Solar Decathlon green building contest. After spending two years designing and building cutting-edge solar houses, the teams — mostly from North America — sought the designation of "most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient" for their structures.

    Each house in this U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored biennial competition showcases the best principles of sustainable design by incorporating its architectural and engineering aspects into a unified equation of efficiency. The idea of the contest, as Decathlon Director Richard King put it, is "looking at a house as a total system that's integrated with renewable energy... from the beginning, so that it all works together and the house becomes part living organism, part living system."

    Each team was judged on ten elements — hence the "decathlon" — including architecture, engineering and market viability. They also tried to measure up on communications, lighting design, hot water systems, comfort (indoor temperature and humidity maintenance), appliances, and home entertainment. This year, the "net metering" contest evaluated entries on how much extra energy they could feed back into the electrical grid.

    Team Germany

    Team Germany, consisting of students from the Technische Universität Darmstadt, was the overall winner for 2009, as it also was in 2007. The team's goal was to test the limits, in both extensiveness of photovoltaic surface and use of new technologies. The strategy worked: they scored in the top five in nine of the ten contests.   >>>

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    Team Germany, whose two-story solar demonstration house is clad on all sides in solar cells, won the 2009 Solar Decathlon.
    Photo: © Jim Tetro Photography/ Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Extra Large Image

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    The Solar Decathlon took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in October 2009.
    Photo: © Stefano Paltera/ DOE Solar Decathlon Extra Large Image

     

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