The 2009 Solar Decathlon Approaches

The fourth U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon will take place in October 2009 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Solar Decathlon is a unique competition where teams of students from universities around the world - including the US, Canada, Spain and Germany - design and build a zero energy home. The houses then compete in 10 categories, addressing issues of energy, design and other sustainable features. The teams need to merge aesthetics with effective and energy efficient systems, blending design and technical expertise.

20 teams are entering the competition in 2009, while each began their project almost two years prior. Students are managing all aspects of the project from its conception, through various design phases and construction. They are also required to take on the challenges of fund raising, communicating their team activities, collecting needed materials, systems and other supplies and collaborating with contractors and other consultants. This gives the participants a look into the complex world of architecture outside the protection of the classroom. It is usually during this time that the competition is actually won or lost, even though the actual public event is what garners all the attention. All of design and construction takes place at their university and then the final building is shipped and assembled on the National Mall.

Along with being an education tool for the participating universities and project teams, the event is also used to raise awareness about energy issues among the general public. The international event highlights creative solutions to these pressing problems - offering solutions aimed at energy efficiency and renewable resources. These projects also aid solar energy technologies to enter the market faster and encourages research and development in the industrial sector.

The houses are required to:
  • Be attractive and easy to live in
  • Maintain comfortable and healthy indoor environmental conditions
  • Feature appealing and adequate lighting
  • Supply energy to household appliances for cooking and cleaning
  • Power home electronics
  • Provide hot water
  • Balance energy production and consumption
The 10 Solar Decathlon Contests for 2009:
  • Architecture — 100 points (subjective)
  • Market Viability — 100 points (subjective)
  • Engineering — 100 points (subjective)
  • Lighting Design — 75 points (subjective)
  • Communications — 75 points (subjective)
  • Comfort Zone — 100 points (objective)
  • Hot Water — 100 points (objective)
  • Appliances — 100 points (objective)
  • Home Entertainment — 100 points (objective)
  • Net Metering — 150 points (objective)
The objective categories are scored based on technical readings while the remaining categories are judged by a committee of professional architects, engineers and experts in other appropriate fields. The winning project is the one with the most accumulative points.

Important Dates to Know:
  • Oct. 8 to 16: Teams compete in 10 contests
  • Oct. 9to 13 and 15 to 18: Houses are open to the public
  • Oct. 19-21: Teams disassemble their houses
The Solar Decathlon houses will be open for public tours 11 a.m.­ until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Take note that all homes will be closed on Wednesday, Oct. 14 if you are planning on visiting the event.

For more information visit or check out these books: Precedents in Zero-Energy Design: A Graphic Analysis of the 2007 Solar Decathlon Houses, Team North Entry to the 2009 Solar Decathlon, Solar Decathlon The 2005 International Competition of Solar Home Design and Solar Decathlon 2005 (DVD)- A Solar Village on the National Mall


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