On October 1st, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled the winner of the 2011 Solar Decathlon at West Potomac Park in Washington D.C., bringing together innovative solar-powered prototype residences designed and built by international student teams from universities and colleges. This year’s champion, the University of Maryland’s WaterShed house, excelled in a variety of then ten metrics used to judge the houses including affordability, energy balance, hot water, and engineering.
The WaterShed house included living features such as a waterfall providing humidity control, an edible green wall for year-round produce, and artificial-filtration wetlands. The University of Maryland also won the architecture contest outright. Appalachian State won the 2011 Solar Decathlon People’s Choice Awards for their net-zero energy Solar Homestead.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu lauded this year’s designs as imaginative, practical, and inspiring. “The houses on display blend affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. These talented students are demonstrating to consumers the wide range of energy-saving solutions that are available today to save them money on their energy bills,” he said.
Purdue University’s InHome, taking second prize, incorporated an air-to-air heat pump; Empowerhouse by Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology relied on a green roof and an energy recovery ventilation system while Middlebury College’s Self-Reliance house rethought the New England farmhouse through technology such as stack effect ventilation and triple-paned windows. New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington’s First Light home recycled sheep wool for insulation and included a clothes-drying cupboard and used solar-powered hot water.