Team Hawai’i Withdraws From Solar Decathlon Competition Despite Amazing Design

by , 06/09/11

Hale Pilihonua, Team Hawai'i, Solar Decathlon, withdrawal, solar homes, net zero home, solar energy, university of hawaii

Hale Pilihonua, which translates to the “home that is one with the land,” was designed using a holistic approach that functions in harmony with naturally available resources. The tubular home is covered in a shell, or semi-monocoque structure made of fiber-reinforced polymer, also commonly used in eco-friendly surfboards. This rot and pest resistant shell is insulated with translucent and high performance aerogel, which allows natural lighting to glow through the facade into the interior. Mounted on the exterior are controllable shading louvers, solar photovoltaics and a solar hot water heating system.

Integrated environmental control systems include phase-change material for thermal storage, intelligent occupancy sensing, energy-conserving lighting controls, and home integration software. The electrical engineering students developed programs and demos for interactive LED lighting that utilize Microsoft Kinect infrared technology to allow the walls to light only areas of the home where occupants reside. Landscaping is intended to supplement the family’s food supply and makes use of an outdoor aquaponics system.

Team Hawai’i’s withdrawal on June 1st shows how challenging designing a net zero home can be. Even though we write every day about amazing green homes, there is a ton of work, engineering, and thoughtful design that goes into these homes, not to mention a considerable amount of funding. Competing in the Solar Decathlon is an expensive endeavor and many homes cost close to the million dollar mark if not more. Even with donations, outside funding and sponsors, it can be a challenge to find enough money to build the home and send the team to DC for the competition. As the Solar Decathlon gains more attention and becomes even more competitive, we hope spending can be reeled in to make it more accessible. Certainly it is must be a great disappointment to the students who have already worked so hard on this project, but hopefully will have the chance to work on it again in 2013.

+ University of Hawai’i Solar Decathlon Team

+ Solar Decathlon Coverage on Inhabitat

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1 Comment

  1. Richard King June 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    This is Richard King, director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. We too are very disappointed that Team Hawaii had to withdraw. They were a favorite to us all, and as you accurately reported on, had an amazing design.

    We changed the rules this year to reel in the cost of the SD houses. To receive full points in a new Affordability contest (one of the ten)the house must cost $250,000 or less. Your comment that many houses cost close to a million dollars was true for a few of the past houses, but this year all the teams are building competition houses for much less. We hope this year’s contest will showcase more cost-effective houses yet retain the same exciting innovation.

    Be sure to follow the event at

    Richard King

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