The University of Maryland won the fifth Solar Decathlon on Sunday, followed by Purdue and New Zealand. The Solar Decathlon judged twenty teams based on ten different factors, which included architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, energy balance and home entertainment.
Affordability, a new rule, became a key factor in this year's Solar Decathlon; in past years, some houses had reached prices of up to $800,000. With the introduction of the affordability criteria, teams could create real life scenarios showing that clean technology is not past the grasp of the masses. Energy balance became less important this year as compared with the 2009 Solar Decathlon, accounting for a total of one hundred instead of one hundred and fifty points of the total score.
With its artificial wetlands built in and around the house to recycle gray water, its butterfly design with slanted roofs, its green roof and net energy consumption of zero throughout a rainy week, the University of Maryland house, named WaterShed, was the judge's favorite. Appalachian State University, on the other hand, won the People's Choice Award. Its design was equally ingenious; the house finished second in the communications contest, third in the architecture contest and twelfth overall.
Several competitors used similar techniques to those of the schools above. New Zealand, for example, used a butterfly design to collect rainwater, and Purdue used a green wall made of plants to clean indoor air. iPads, modular buildings and efficient lights and appliances served many schools as they strove to meet the requirements of the competition.
At the close of the Solar Decathlon, Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave a speech congratulating students, reminding them that they are helping the U.S. remain a major competing force in the clean energy industry.
You can see all of the solar homes in the Solar Decathlon on SolarTown's Facebook Page.