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Solar Decathlon Europe 2014: Versailles France Almost Open

When I arrived onsite last week, Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 student teams were in the middle of the final phase of heavy construction of their self-designed and self-built project houses, writes Meredith Tunick for Solar Decathlon.

The scene was filled with intense energy as students—fully equipped with hard hats, steel-toed boots, and safety gear—moved around their construction sites in a sort of synchronized dance of home production. The air smelled of dirt, lumber, and teamwork.

Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 TechStyle-Haus.2Rory Stevens of Team Inside Out (Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany) talks with Annette Wagner, Bosch, Government Affairs, Brussels, and explains how the team used innovative fabrics and techniques to design the structure of its house. | Credit: Meredith Tunick

Solar Decathlon Europe 2014: Perspective of a Manufacturer, Observer, and Building Technology Enthusiast

My experience with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon dates back to 2005, when I toured the houses on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I attended the competition not as an employee of a manufacturing company or a Solar Decathlon sponsor but as a private individual interested in emerging energy and building technology. My first encounter with the Solar Decathlon was significant, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since.

Fast forward to Solar Decathlon Europe 2014, currently underway in Versailles, France. After signing in at the main registration desk on the event grounds, just off the main entrance to the Palace of Versailles, I received a visitor pass, hard hat, safety vest, and a pair of work boots.

My colleague Annette Wagner, who had taken the train down from Brussels to join me for the site tour, and I met up with Louise Holloway, communications and brand identity specialist for Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. Louise provided us with a tour of the full site and shared her enthusiasm with us about what the students had accomplished. While briefing us on all the team project concepts, she thoughtfully answered our questions, tended to critical logistics issues, and while doing so, waved and greeted students, volunteers, and other onsite personnel with a smile and an encouraging attitude.

Like so many other Solar Decathlon staff members I have come across, Louise has a sharp-edged eye for detail, an immense talent for multi-tasking, and the supreme capacity of charisma.

During our tour, Louise introduced us to the two Solar Decathlon Europe teams that incorporate U.S. universities: Team Inside Out—a collaborative project that includes Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany—and Team Réciprocité, an alliance of Appalachian State University and Université d’Angers, France.

We spent time with Rory Stevens of Team Inside Out as he explained his team’s solar-powered passive house that uses curving surfaces and high-performance textiles. Rory took us inside Techstyle Haus to get a better look at the interior structural steel ribs that hold the house together.

The competition’s opening ceremony will take place on Friday, June 27. I can’t wait to see what the final products look like! What an amazing endeavor and a fantastic opportunity for these student teams to showcase their innovative designs, expertise, and outside-the-box thinking. More to come from the event grounds of Solar Decathlon Europe 2014, here in Versailles, France. Au revoir!

Solar Decathlon Europe’s solar city in Versailles, France, La Cité du Soleil is FREE and open to the public from June 28 to July 14. The solar houses are open for visits:

  • Weekdays – 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Weekends – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Fans of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, mark your calendars: Solar Decathlon 2015 will be held October 8-18, 2015, at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

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Written By

-- I am an artist, painter, writer, interior designer, graphic designer, and constant student of many studies. Living with respect for the environment close at hand, the food chain, natural remedies for healing the earth, people and animals is a life-long expression and commitment. As half of a home-building team, I helped design and build harmonious, sustainable and net-zero homes that incorporate clean air systems, passive and active solar energy as well as rainwater collection systems. Private aviation stirs a special appeal, I would love to fly in the solar airplane and install a wind turbine in my yard. I am a peace-loving, courageous soul, and I am passionate about contributing to the clean energy revolution. I formerly designed and managed a clean energy website,


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