After an 8 year relationship between the D.C. Mall and the Solar Decathlon competition, (a competition that challenges university teams to design and build awesome solar-powered homes) the National Park Service last week, said “No More.” Citing concerns for the health and well being of the 684-acre park in the nation’s capital, the National Park Service is banning the beloved competition from the capital. Organizers are scrambling to find a new venue for the September event, while competing teams are in limbo to hear where the event will be held. As all of the teams have designed their homes specifically for the D.C. climate, the change in venue will have a huge impact on the design specs.
The National Park Service is currently working on a revitalization plan for the Capital Mall, which has seen a lot of heavy traffic in the last few years, and apparently, the Solar Decathlon is one of the culprits. The DOE, organizers of the event, are working with the Park Service to find a suitable alternative, with a preference towards keeping it in the D.C. area. Alternatives include moving the event to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or St. Louis and future competitions will be placed in various places around the country.
While the move would help bring the competition to more people than just in the D.C. area, students and sponsors alike are very disappointed with the changes. Twenty teams from around the world have been planning, designing and building their energy efficient homes with the D.C. climate in mind, and the change throws their plans into upheaval. Passive solar design, latitude, insulation, solar energy production and much more will be directly affected by the change in location for the competition.
Sponsors of the teams, likewise, are disappointed by losing the prominent showcase venue. Chip Dence, a judge during past competitions as well as a member of the National Association of Home Builders, has petitioned President Obama to overrule the decision in order to keep the Decathlon on the Mall for at least this year. “That’s kind of changing the rules in the middle of the game because these teams have already gotten a lot of sponsors who anticipated they were going to displaying their products on the mall,” Dence said. The decision for the new venue is expected in a couple of weeks, and with less than 9 months to go, all of the teams will have some quick work to ensure their homes can compete in the new climate.