solar chic
October 21, 2007 6:33 PM   Subscribe

The Solar Decathlon is a just-completed competition in which 20 teams of college and university students competed to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. View a photo gallery or take video tours of the homes. Inhabitat has been blogging the event - here's their view of Germany's winning entry.

Note: There are links above each photo in the photo gallery that will bring you to details of the project and a link to the college or university's home site for each project.

More coverage from Inhabit:
posted by madamjujujive (16 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by ericb at 6:58 PM on October 21, 2007

My girlfriend and I decided to go walk around the mall and just happened upon this. It was the nicest surprise. I wish I had been in town while the houses were open, but there were a lot of people having dinner parties inside and on the porches.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:01 PM on October 21, 2007

This was a great idea, but I wish they wouldn't put this crap on the mall. It's supposed to be a symbol of how great this country is, yet it's always dusty, brown and covered in tents. Here's a photo I took a little while ago when they were setting it up.
posted by borkingchikapa at 7:30 PM on October 21, 2007

The Mall gets it fair shaire of abuse but to be fair that picture is of a gravel walkway that parallels the roads, it's not supposed to be grassy, its for people riding bikes, and stuff. The region is experiencing a drought and the Mall is huge, much of it is in excellent shape. Is the Mall really a symbol of how great the US is? How does that work? You might be right but I never saw a big grassy strip that way - perhaps symbolic of an airport?
posted by stbalbach at 7:42 PM on October 21, 2007

What lovely little houses! I'd move into the University of Maryland's house in a heartbeat.

I wonder how well these ideas would scale up to a more typical size house (say 2 stories, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths). Somehow I don't think there's much market for little houses like these in most suburbs (after all, one reason people move to the suburbs is to get a big-ass house) but if these ideas could be adapted to larger homes they might have some real impact on our energy consumption.

I've bookmarked the site for future inspiration for some home improvement/retrofit projects. Thanks for another excellent post, madam jjj!
posted by Quietgal at 8:33 PM on October 21, 2007

that maryland house is gorgeous.
posted by dismas at 9:01 PM on October 21, 2007

And the Darwin to Adelaide solar car race is on too!
posted by bystander at 9:04 PM on October 21, 2007

YAY elegant sustainability. Those houses are beautiful. I do like the German shuttered one. Flickr set.
posted by nickyskye at 9:31 PM on October 21, 2007

The page for the University of Maryland one says it has an "indoor waterfall", but I didn't see it in any of the pictures. Wish I'd gone down to see these.
posted by gsteff at 9:40 PM on October 21, 2007

that's a cool competition - thanks for posting it.
posted by wilful at 9:58 PM on October 21, 2007

I so want one of those for the backyard.

As for the Mall, I tend to think of it more in terms of public assembly than some sort of grassy botanic garden. But the Washington Monthly calls the Mall a "monumental failure". (pun, no doubt):

Instead of a public sanctuary for Americans to celebrate and enjoy, visitors are treated like ill-mannered museum-goers, endured but unwelcome.... For many of its 16 million annual visitors, the Mall is a profound disappointment. Much of it is fenced off to visitors. There are no picnic tables, few restrooms, and little in the way of shade or fountains. Its museums take pride in drawing great art from around the world, but its cuisine is drawn primarily from Coney Island....

I noticed that no one else was enjoying themselves either.... Like me, most were sunburned, thirsty, and exhausted, possibly experiencing the late stages of heat stroke. Instead of the nourishing patriotic uplift that the Mall should provide, their weary stares betrayed a sober realization that they had encountered not the joyous public sanctuary they imagined, but a civic burden.....

L'Enfant had in mind the great places of France: the parks and avenues of Paris, the stately precincts of Versailles.... Instead, it is a parched and barren expanse presided over by a despotic Park Service bent on stamping out any trace of fun or enjoyment. By day, oppressive heat and choking dust clouds frustrate its users--not Washingtonians but beleaguered tourists. By night it is bereft of human activity and controlled by marauding gangs of rats....

Were Washington indeed like a great European capital, this heart of the city would be a place where families, professionals, and tourists could gather at all hours in lively cafes arrayed along the Reflecting Pool to enjoy a cold drink and a good meal, laugh and socialize, or simply gaze in wonder at the marble symbols of America's greatness. Instead, on a hot summer day or a cool spring evening, there is no worse place to be in the nation's capital than the National Mall.

posted by dhartung at 9:59 PM on October 21, 2007

How much would these houses cost compared to typical homes of similar capacity? People aren't going to pay five times the price, no matter how much you assure them that they'll get it all back in saved energy bills over 20 years or whatever.

And how well do these designs transfer from single-family homes to apartment buildings, where each family has just one or two walls (and usually no roof and no garden) facing out on the world?
posted by pracowity at 12:49 AM on October 22, 2007

These type of houses in less energy efficient form are currently priced at around $250+ per square foot, roughly twice the going rate for stick-built. These particular houses would probably be that much again.

Right now it's a chicken-and-egg thing. Without volume, there's no savings, and without savings there is no volume.
posted by maxwelton at 1:53 AM on October 22, 2007

i walked through this a few years ago on my cross-country trip...the show was over and they were just starting to break it of the entries really stood out for me, and indeed i could think of little else for hours afterward, just trying to figure it out. it was a little house completely covered in copper. thick copper, least an 1/8th of an inch thick. it was crazy. were they trying to make a giant battery house? attract lightning to power the thing? it would just act as poison for the earth, right? what was it doing there?
posted by sexyrobot at 4:01 AM on October 22, 2007

dhartung, I've lived around here my entire life and that's a pretty negative assessment of the Mall. The Mall is more than just the few blocks in front of the museums which I agree are somewhat barren, but when you consider how many huge public gatherings take place there and the millions of people who use it as a protest place, it's hard to imagine it being anything better - picnic tables? They'd be trashed with the first "million XYZ march". No other place in the country gets the kind of human traffic those few acres do.

There are a few great places on the Mall, but you have to go down by the WWII and Vietnam memorials, away from the Capital. Huge expanses of semi-forested area with more shade than sun, hills overlooking the water, it's really beautiful and pleasant and devoid of people - tourists stay glued to the walkways on their way from tourist site #1 to #2. The locals know how to use the Mall. As the article suggests, the best time to go to the memorials is at night when no one is around. Also, DC weather is not exactly comparable to the "great European capitals," time your trip in June or Sept-Oct is the best weather.
posted by stbalbach at 6:10 AM on October 22, 2007

I stumbled across this a few years ago on vacation, and it was one of my favorite sights in DC.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:38 AM on October 23, 2007

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