As you may recall, an American team, Virginia Tech, won the first ever Solar Decathlon Europe in Madrid back in 2010 with one of the four teams from Germany taking a very close second place.



This year’s SD Europe is a strictly American-free affair and there’s a decidedly less intimidating presence from the efficiency-obsessed Germans (two teams instead of four). The 20 qualifying collegiate teams converging once again on Madrid’s Villa Solar are an eclectic bunch that hail from 13 different countries and four continents. Naturally, there’s a handful of homegrown entrants, a smattering of teams from elsewhere in Europe, a team from Egypt, one from Brazil, one from China and one from Japan. Overall, it’s a touch more diverse than 2010’s competition in which only seven countries were represented. There's also a couple of return contenders.


Last week, the motley, fired-up assemblage arrived at the 38,350-square-meter Villa Solar in Casa de Campo and began assembling their solar-powered homes and preparing for the big event. The competition itself kicks off on Sept. 13 and runs through Sept. 30 when a winner will be announced.



If you’re not familiar with the SD Europe, it’s simply a more internationally flavored spin on its older — and recently relocated — American counterpart organized by the Department of Energy: Over the span of nearly two weeks in which Villa Solar is open to the public, the 20 teams will submit to 10 different contests both juried and measured to see which team has designed and built the most attractive, livable and energy-efficient solar-powered home. Or, in the words of the event organizers: “The objective of the participating teams is to design and build houses that consume as few natural resources as possible and produce minimum waste products during their life cycle. Particular emphasis is put on reducing energy consumption and on obtaining all the necessary energy from the sun.”


Each of the 10 contests — architecture, engineering and construction, energy efficiency, electrical energy balance, comfort conditions, functionality, sustainability, innovation, market viability, and communication/raising social awareness — is scored and the team with the highest number of points is declared the winner. 

Below, I’ve embedded short films submitted by 10 of the teams that explain the concept behind each of their respective homes. Early next week, I’ll post the remaining videos from the remaining 10 teams. At the conclusion of the competition, I’ll take a closer look at the big winner (and no, I'm not rooting for a specific team quite yet). I really wish I was there to cover the action, but, alas, I'm not. So instead, I'll be making myself some Kalimotxo, re-watching some old Pedro Almodóvar​ films, and living vicariously through SD Europe's official blog.
And in case you're curious about which teams will be participating in the 2013 Solar Decathlon at its new (temporary?) home in Irvine, Calif., click here to see the full line-up. 


Spain: e(co) Team (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)  — e(co) 



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

2012 Solar Decathlon Europe: The teams, round one
With the kick-off event just days away, 20 collegiate teams hailing from 13 different countries have descended on Madrid for the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe. He