We're not psychic, but we know good design when we see it - and this year's Solar Decathlon houses have it in spades. From super efficient solar energy systems, to high-tech whole-house monitoring, rainwater collection, vegetable gardens and beautiful architecture, we're amazed the innovation at work in this year's entries. Although we're excited to see all 20 of the Solar Decathlon houses starting today in DC, we've got our eyes on several shining contenders - read on for a first look at our top 7 teams to watch this next week as the competition unfolds!
The TRTL, which stands for “Technological Residence, Traditional Living”, is a teepee inspired home designed by Team Canada specifically for the Native Peoples of southern Alberta. An impressive arched solar roof is paired with modular design and construction and a house layout designed for large family gatherings.
Why we like it: The TRTL house is more than just energy-efficient design – it could provide quality housing solutions for people on reservations.
Florida International University’s perFORM[D]ance home is a classic beach bungalow that features passive solar design, natural ventilation and a hurricane resistant design. Retractable glazing and operable louvers provide low-tech solutions with a high impact design.
Why we like it: The perFORM[D]ance house is symmetrical pleasing with a modernistic style we think could become really popular – plus they get extra points for a disaster resistance.
The bright minds at the University of Maryland created the WaterShed, an impressive one bedroom home that goes beyond net zero energy. Inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, water is at the heart of the home, but it also relies on the sun, wind and other interconnected systems for energy efficiency in hopes of giving back to the surrounding ecosystem. The walls even feature edible plants!
Why we like it: The WaterShed fully integrates solar energy and efficient water management to create a home that is just as green as it is gorgeous.
City College New York blew us away with their design for a solar-powered house specifically for rooftops. The house makes use of lightweight and environmentally friendly materials, and even includes space for an outdoor garden.
Why we like it: Representing the urban market, the Solar Roofpod House is certain to make waves in the city – a place that has been largely under-represented in this competition until now.
Inspired by the traditional Kiwi bach, the FirstLight House by the Victoria University of Wellington is the first entry in the competition from the southern hemisphere. A dynamic design is coupled with local materials from New Zealand (including eco wool insulation!) and natural daylight is ample within.
Why we like it: Team New Zealand’s home is sure to be a real crowd pleaser, and we’ll be happy to get a first hand taste of Kiwi design and materials. We just hope they remembered to design it for the Northern Hemisphere!
With a dynamic duo like SCI_arc and Caltech working together, we’re certain to see something astounding. Their CH:IP house (Compact House:Increasing Possibility) is enveloped in a heavily insulated quilt which takes inspiration from an astronaut’s suit.
Why we like it: High-tech and heavily engineered, the CH:IP house is at the cross-section of space travel and sustainable building.
Our guess for the humanitarian award though goes to the Empowerhouse by Parsons The New School for Design, the Milano School, and Stevens Institute of Technology. The prefab home features a great contemporary design and all the best strategies for energy efficiency. Plus it will be merged with another house in DC’s Deanwood neighborhood to serve as housing for two lucky families.
Why we like it: Going above and beyond, the Empowerhouse is more than just a student project, as it will provide a low maintenance and low energy home for two families.