Solar Decathlon Winners

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solar decathlon winners
Solar Decathlon 2011 winners and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu (on the left)

Solar Decathlon 2011, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) solar architecture contest, has wrapped up. While there is an overall winner, there are also winning teams for different topics (e.g. affordability, engineering, communications, home entertainment, and more). All of the winners are below, along with notes on why most of them won.

The overall goal of the Solar Decathlon competitors is to “design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy efficient and attractive,” as my colleague over at Green Building Elements nicely summarizes.

Below are the big winners, followed by the final overall standings.

Overall Winner: University of Maryland (pictured above)

From the DOE:

Consistently appearing in first place in overall standings throughout the competition, the University of Maryland won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the competition results today before an excited audience that packed the main tent in the solar village.

“Maryland is a well-experienced team. After taking second place in 2007, they rested and regrouped in 2009 and came to West Potomac Park in 2011 focused and determined to win,” said Solar Decathlon Director Richard King. “In addition, Maryland’s Watershed is a beautiful house, judged first place in Architecture, which also performed impeccably in measured contests. This team mastered their strategies to ensure they excelled in all 10 contests.”

Architecture: University of Maryland

“WaterShed achieves an elegant mix of inspiration, function, and simplicity. It takes our current greatest challenges in the built environment—energy and water—and transforms them into opportunities for spatial beauty and poetry while maintaining livability in every square inch,” said Architecture Contest Juror Michelle Kaufmann.

Communications: Middlebury College

With exemplary communications materials, public tours, and website, Middlebury College received first place in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Communications Contest today.

“Middlebury College, this year’s winner of the Communications Contest, is a very authentic team that conveyed the best of New England architecture. This team’s holistic approach to communications was refreshing; they achieved in all aspects of communications—not just in one area,” said Ryan Park, director of business development for REC Solar Inc., who presented the award on behalf of the Communications Contest jurors. “This team made renewable energy technologies familiar to the public, which we believe will help people more easily embrace these technologies. And isn’t that what it’s all about?”

Affordability: Team Belgium AND Parsons the New School for Design and Stevens University (Tie)

“With its E-Cube now correctly valued at $249,568.09, Team Belgium (Ghent University) moved into the tie for first place with Parsons the New School for Design and Stevens University (which includes Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School).”

People’s Choice Award: Appalachian State

From the DOE:

Appalachian State University won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 People’s Choice Award for its Solar Homestead today. This award gives the public the opportunity to vote for its favorite house. This year, 92,538 votes were cast. The award was announced at a Victory Reception in the solar Village in West Potomac Park—the last official event of Solar Decathlon 2011.

“The team’s passion and enthusiasm were contagious,” said Terri Jones, Solar Decathlon Communications Contest official. “The People’s Choice Award is a popular vote, and I believe the Solar Homestead house and team appealed to people on many levels.”

The Solar Homestead is a self-sustaining net zero-energy house inspired by the pioneer spirit of the early settlers to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The isolation of early settlers to the Appalachian region fostered a pioneer spirit in those who established self-sustaining living/working compounds on the frontier. The Solar Homestead fuses these values into a highly energy-efficient home, which remains true to these underlying principles by integrating renewable resources and innovative technology into a prototype that is adaptable, self-sufficient, rugged, affordable, and attractive.

Market Appeal: Middlebury College

“Self-Reliance left the jury very impressed, eclipsing our expectations across the board in livability and marketability,” said Brad Beeson, Market Appeal juror. “Middlebury College defined its market carefully—a young family of four with a modest income for the region—and demonstrated the fit for that target market with a very compelling video.”

Engineering: New Zealand

Wowing jurors with its attention to detail, craftsmanship, and unusual energy visualization system, New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington) received first place today in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 Engineering Contest for its First Light house.

“The New Zealand house was beautifully executed, with extreme attention to detail and craftsmanship and an intuitive tree-ring visualization system, which makes it easy to understand energy use throughout the house,” said Engineering Contest juror Dr. Hunter Fanney, chief of the building energy and environment division of the engineering laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Home Entertainment: Middlebury College

“We’ve been doing practice dinners for team bonding since last fall,” says Melissa Segil, team manager for Middlebury College. “It was so fun to use the kitchen, which is one of our favorite parts of the house.”

Energy Balance: New Zealand, Purdue, Tennessee, Florida International, Maryland, Illinois, SCI-Arc/Caltech (7-Way Tie)

Appliances: Illinois

Hot Water: New Zealand, Tennessee, Parsons NS Stevens, Appalachian State, Maryland, Ohio State, SCI-Arc/Caltech (7-Way Tie)

Comfort Zone: Ohio State

solar decathlon 2011 winners

And the full final standings were as follows:

  1. Maryland
  2. Purdue
  3. New Zealand
  4. Middlebury College
  5. Ohio State
  6. SCI-Arc/Caltech
  7. Illinois
  8. Tennessee
  9. Team Massachusetts
  10. Canada
  11. Florida Int’l
  12. Appalachian State
  13. Parsons NS Stevens
  14. Tidewater Virginia
  15. Team China
  16. Team Belgium
  17. Team New York
  18. Team New Jersey
  19. Team Florida

Congratulations to all who participated!!

Image Credit: AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon


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Zachary Shahan

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