If you've already given up on your favorite college football team and you just happen to be in the Washington, D.C., area next month, here’s the perfect stop after a visit to the White House Farmers Market: the 2009 Solar Decathlon on the National Mall.

This will be the Department of Energy’s fourth Decathlon (it’s taken place in 2002, 2005 and 2007). The competition involves 20 teams of students from colleges and universities across the country (and a couple of international teams) that are competing to design, build and operate the most attractive, livable, and most importantly, energy-efficient, solar-powered house. Each home must generate enough juice to provide power and hot water as well as charge an electric car battery. Several teams have created iPhone apps so homeowners can remotely control household energy use and, for the first time, all Decathlon houses will be tied to the utility grid to allow net metering.

The model homes will be assembled right on the Mall and will be open to the public on Oct. 9-13 and Oct. 15-18. During this time, the teams will also submit to 10 different subjective and objective contests that will help determine the winner: Architecture, Market Viability, Engineering, Lighting Design, Communications, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment and Net Metering. A series of consumer workshops will also be held (check out the full Decathlon schedule here).

Since I know how worked up folks get about collegiate competitions of any kind (GO TEAM!), here’s a look at 10 of the student-designed and built homes that will be going up on the Mall. I'll feature the remaining 10 later in the week. 

Via [Jetson Green] and [DOE]
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