Solar on Parade

Solar DecathlonWell, it’s less a parade than a squat, but however you trumpet it the Solar Decathlon has it’s competition homes on display this week, through Saturday. You can tour the homes, which are built by students from the US and a few international teams. Awards are given for architecture and a bunch of other measures of efficiency and usability. The overall winner will be announced today, but the homes will be open for tours through Saturday. Lectures on how homeowners can take advantage of solar technologies and other “green renovations” are also going on all day Saturday. ICincinnati Solar House visited last weekend, and was most interested by the range of styles each team used in their home. Some looked like traditional ranch homes with a solar panel plunked on top, one appeared to have been eaten entirely by solar panels, and a few looked like shoe boxes with Colorado Solar Housefunny attachments. My favorites were from Colorado (left), Cincinnati (right), and Texas A&M: pictures of each home labeled by school are online, and team overviews and links to other team websites are also at the Decathlon homepage. Right now the team from Maryland is 1st in overall standings, but who knows what drama could occur by this evening! Anything under the sun, that’s what. The Decathlon homepage also includes tons of links to basic information (check under the “Teachers” heading) about solar and other renewable energies, and a link for “Consumers” if you’re interested in finding out ways to actually use some of the solutions on your own home. It’ll be a nice weekend, so check it out in person if you get a chance.

The lectures and informational materials are great, but they’re mostly directed at people with homes. For us renters, there are a few feasible, portable solar options. The Solio is a portable device charger with 4 (4!) color options, and the Eclipse line of bags will carry your stuff and charge it too- one of their bags was reviewed in Wired. I can’t personally recommend any of these products, but they sure look cool, and they get pretty good reviews. And Christmas/Eid/Diwali/Hanukkah/Festivus is sneaking up and all…

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4 Responses to “Solar on Parade”


  1. 1 Cameron October 19, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    That’s real cool! I think it’s becoming important that these engineers actually pair with architects to work on style and not just substinence. People are getting more serious about greening their house, but they also don’t want a giant recycled shipping crate sticking out of the new addition to their child’s nursery! Thanks for the pics, I would love to tour those houses. BY the time I move back to Cali to buy a house…..and can actually afford to buy a house, I might have my own all solar panelled hovel to call my own……I just worry that a solar powered future will lead to people stealing the tiles off my roof, or whole wall segments to power their new solar SUV!!! Need to get a green attack dog!!

    c-

    p.s.
    I can see your updates now in my gmail…..yay!!!

  2. 2 millie October 20, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    The trend seems to be bigger and more expensive with some feel good features like cork or bamboo floors -These competition homes would work, but how many of the students who are in on the design would live in one? How do you change desire for bigger and more to what one needs? That was a question you brought up last month and probably is the central issue.

  3. 3 virescent October 21, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Funny you mention it, Cam- the Colorado House used a couple of recycled shipping containers but integrated them so nicely it ended up being a neat design thing. Yeah, nice that “green” and “style” are finally uniting. I’m really wondering about when “green” and “mediocre suburban cookie-cutter proto-mcmansion” will start getting together- those are the kind of houses that most people buy. Take the design of Darmstadt’s winning entry- a box surrounded with wooden shutters, which are a neat feature when you want the thing open to different degrees, but would probably seem decidedly scary to most home buyers. How to secure it from people who want to steal your huge new tv? Where do we store the fake Christmas tree and other trappings of suburbia? I think some of the houses were awesome, you think some of them were awesome- and the houses we liked were probably the exact opposite of the ones most Americans have behind their white picket fences. Santa Clara and U. Illinois turned out some pretty “normal”, reassuring-looking homes. Those are the types of green buildings that will most convince people to go all environmental and solar- when they can see the technology applied in their own context.

    It is hopeful though- NPR carried an interview with some school kids visiting the exhibit, and they thought the more modern and “bizarre” homes would be awesome to live in. Granted, they were from a hippy-sounding special school- Open Walls, it might have been?- but the more regular people get shown the way a house could look, and more options than mcmansions, the more originality (and hopefully efficiency) they’ll want in their own homes.


  1. 1 Sunday Special: Give a Little « Virescent Trackback on November 11, 2007 at 8:16 pm

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