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Solar Decathlon: A sneak peek at the houses

By: Matt Hickman on Sept. 9, 2011, 7:07 a.m.
Victoria University of Wellington, First Light house

Photo: DOE

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Victoria University of Wellington, First Light house

Although Victoria University of Wellington is the first team from the Southern Hemisphere to compete in the U.S. Solar Decathlon, don't let Team Kiwi's status as a newbie fool you — First Light is ready to put up a fight. A zero-energy take on traditional New Zealand holiday homes known as "Kiwi baches," the First Light house is a sophisticated yet unfussy abode that gets its name from New Zealand's claim to fame as the first place on Earth to see the morning light each day. Aside from the requisite emphasis on energy savings, First Light is all about embracing the outdoors through design elements that reflect "a relaxed lifestyle in which socializing and connecting with the outdoors are central to living" and the use of indigenous materials including — no big shocker here — natural sheep's wool insulation.