Solar Decathlon showcases amazing net-zero homes

Missouri S&T was in the lead at the Solar Decathlon with its Net House

The world’s most innovative, livable, energy efficient homes of the future are on display in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. this week.

The homes are the creations of teams of talented and dedicated college students from around the globe. The Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the US Department of Energy every other year since 2002, challenges teams of students to create homes that produce as much energy as they use while boasting beauty, functionality and mass market appeal. Teams are judged on 10 criteria – architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort, appliance efficiency, home life (livability), commuting (EV charging) and energy balance. All of the homes are outfitted with rooftop solar arrays.

“These inspiring collegiate teams show the world how energy-efficient building design and clean energy products available today can help families and businesses save money by saving energy,” Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said at the event’s opening ceremony on Thursday.

Fourteen teams are competing with complete solar homes transported and reconstructed on site. Many of the homes were built with specific families or individuals in mind who will ultimately inhabit them.

The interior square footage of each home is 1,000 square feet or less. But most of the solar houses have ample outdoor space, which allows them to feel and live larger.

Many of the teams focus on expanding their homes’ interiors to the outside and creating a harmony with nature and the outdoors. That contributes to an overwhelming feeling that this little “neighborhood” of 14 houses is the most elegant, modern and sophisticated in the world. Every home is individually crafted and custom-designed. No two are alike in any way other than their general extraordinary-ness.

As of Monday evening, team Missouri S&T was in the lead. The team’s Nest Home “is designed to prove that a net-zero home can comfortably and reliably meet the need of a small family,” according to the team’s online information.

Missouri used mostly recycled and reclaimed materials to aid in affordability and to reduce the carbon footprint of the home.

“Three decommissioned shipping containers are set around a central gathering space to create a deconstructed triangle inspired by the shape of a bird's nest,” according to the team’s site. “The floor plan promotes togetherness while providing room for privacy.”

Less than one point behind Missouri S&T is Steven Institute of Technology. Stevens’ Sure House is designed to create a “low-energy, solar-powered, storm-resistant home for vulnerable coastal communities,” according to the team’s website.  

Inspired by the devastation caused along the east coast by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the home focuses on indoor-outdoor space. “Through a simple design transformation, the Sure House doubles its usable space in the summer months by opening up to the outdoor decks.”

The competition will wrap up on Oct. 18 when a Solar Decathlon winner is announced.

 

Rankings as of Monday, Oct. 12

Rank

Team

Score

1.

Missouri S&T

156.095

2.

Stevens

155.786

3.

U at Buffalo

153.434

4.

Cal Poly

152.328

5.

Clemson

146.010

6.

Sacramento State

142.221

7.

West Virginia/Rome

140.889

8.

Crowder/Drury

140.354

9.

UC Davis

139.739

10.

Team NY Alfred

137.069

11.

Team Orange County

135.572

12.

Texas/Germany

134.429

13.

Mass/Central America

74.060

14.

NY City Tech

51.984