The affordability winner of this year’s Solar Decathalon in Washington D.C. is the one that is the most socially conscious, the one that already has a real-life site, and the one cheapest to build: Empowerhouse by a team from Parsons The New School for Design, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School, and Stevens Institute of Technology. Many other awards are to come including the overall Solar Decathlon winner but achieving lowest cost—Empowerhouse cost $229,890—was especially important this year as, in the past, the best of show has gone routinely to the always costly German entry whose previous winning entry carried a price tag of $600,000 which caused a bit of an uproar. Germany was not among the 19 student teams this year.
Empowerhouse cost $229,890 to build with an assist from Habitat for Humanity and the DC Department of Housing. Lest the cards seemed stacked totally in their favor, they tied with Purdue University whose team is currently in first place as the overall winner with a compact and efficient production home aimed at the wannabe-enlightened average homeowner.
“These 2011 teams have shown that solar houses can be affordable while still being innovative,” said Affordability Contest juror Matt Hansen in a press release. “[Empowerhouse] truly exemplified the can-do attitude. The house is based on the affordability needs of the team’s target market in an urban context: low initial costs, low maintenance costs, and low utility costs.”