Well folks, it’s a wrap … Earlier today, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu appointed the University of Maryland’s WaterShed the big winner in the 2011 Solar Decathlon after racking up an impressive 951 out of 1,000 possible points over 10 different contests. I suppose it’s the closest thing to a hometown win as it gets in the biennial Department of Energy-sponsored eco-showdown in which 19 (originally 20) collegiate teams from all over the globe converge on Washington, D.C., to see who has designed and built the most attractive, affordable and efficient solar-powered home.


From the very beginning of the 10-day competition, the University of Maryland — not the school's first decathlon showing, btw  — emerged as a formidable contender. One of the more handsome homes in the solar village, the greywater-recycling, butterfly-roofed WaterShed scored first in the Architecture contest and received high marks in the other juried and measured contests including second place in both Appliances and Market Appeal. In fact, the only contest that WaterShed didn’t place within the top five was in the Affordability contest. It came in 12th.


I had the chance to visit (and bestow some very special honors) to the Solar Decathlon homes in D.C.’s West Potomac Park prior to the event’s opening ceremony and two of my favorite homes from the sneak-peek, Victoria University of Wellington’s Kiwi stunner, First Light, and Middlebury College’s beautiful and barn-inspired Self-Reliance (loved that kitchen) came in third (919 points) and fourth (914 points) places, respectively. Since last checking in with the official standings on Thursday, Middlebury College won both the Communications and Market Appeal contests while New Zealand, first-placer in the Engineering contest, tied with 6 others teams for first in the Energy Balance contest.

After scoring consistently well throughout the competition, Indiana's Purdue University took second place overall (931 points) for INhome, a comfortable and  safe-looking abode complete an attached garage that would fit right in any Midwestern subdivision. The second-place winner in the Affordability contest, INhome may have been less  architecturally adventurous compared to some of its more flashy neighbors in the solar village like sixth-placer CHIP from Caltech and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. If anything, Purdue proved that deep green housing can also come in more “normal” — and affordable —  packages. And on the topic of affordable, Team Parsons/Milano/Stevens’ Empowerhouse, a home built as a real-life Habitat For Humanity project under stringent Passive House standards for under $250,000 came in 13th place over all.


Announced this evening was the winner of the People’s Choice AwardSolar Homestead from Appalachian State University. Another one of my personal favorites, the innovative, outbuilding module (OM)-centric Solar Homestead came in 12th place overall, trailing behind Florida International’s perFORM[D]ance House with 832 points. I can see why North Carolina's Appalachian State took home the PCA (and second place in the Communications contest) for Solar Homestead ... the team was a hoot and their spirit was infectious. Big beards, big energy, tiny mirrorized folding hats, and lots and lots of hay. I'd love to see 'em return for the 2013 decathlon. 

A huge congratulations to all of the teams that traveled from near and really far and persevered through rain, a bit of solar-related scandal, and some serious pre-competition location drama to participate in the 2011 Solar Decathlon. I’m already excited for 2013’s big event (and curious as to where it’s new venue will be). And don’t forget, the second annual Solar Decathlon Europe will take place in Madrid, Spain, in 2012. I would love to be able to get myself on a plane and check it out myself although I should probably get around to renewing my passport first ….


Did you have a chance to visit the 2011 Solar Decathlon? What home resonated the most with you? Which one could you see yourself living in? 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

2011 Solar Decathlon: And we have a winner
University of Maryland's beautiful and butterfly-roofed WaterShed wins the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., while Appalachian State's Solar Homestead p