Kelly the Culinarian: Different DC: Solar Decathlon

Friday, October 19, 2007

Different DC: Solar Decathlon

Warning: this doesn't have much to do with food, it was just an interesting event.
During my roasting summer days in Tucson, I tried my hand at solar cooking on my car's dashboard. But at the Solar Decathlon, held every other year on the National Mall, 20 universities throughout the world took that simple idea and made an entire community out of it.

University teams create proposals for completely solar-powered homes and pitch them to the Department of Energy. They pick 20 and give them $100,000 to start the process, but the houses range in actual cost from $325,000 to $2 million. I don't think they are necessarily designed to be reproduced, just to raise awareness. Then the teams spend the better part of two years designing, planning, building and adorning these houses. Three weeks ago, the teams descended on the Mall and reconstructed the homes there (most trucked or shipped the houses from home). For the last two weeks, the houses have been on display as they were judged in 10 categories including architecture, engineering market viability, livability and the ability to power a car using solar.

The team from Germany won, although some of my favorite houses didn't do so well. I really liked the house by Lawrence Technological Institute because it had separate, defined living areas. I know these are 800-ish square-foot homes, but I don't want to live in a studio after college. I also like the house from the New York Institute of Technology because even for a studio, it was very chic and you couldn't see everything in the place as soon as you walked in. Also, lots of thought was placed on the interior appearance and furnishing. The University of Maryland took second and while I didn't see Germany's house, I heard this one was far more impressive because of its flexible living spaces and finished-appearing design. Great place.

Another one of my favorites that didn't make the cut was the house from the Penn State, which employed some really practical energy-saving devices. For example, they made screen-like structures using grids with glass milk jugs. Beyond giving a whimsical look, these curtains are designed to be placed over the windows during the day to capture radiant heat and then rolled back into place near the walls to distribute that heat back to the house during the evening hours. And even though every team gave out some sort of hand out about their house, Penn was the only one to point out that they used recycled card stock and soy ink to produce their leaflets, which you see up top. There are also little cut outs of a silhouette of the house that guests are encouraged to plant. The chips are impregnated with wildflower seeds.

If only those chips grew basil or tomatoes, we'd be in business.


Retno Prihadana said...

I think solar power is environmental friendly. The solar cooking that you mentioned sounds interesting, do you have any pictures of it?

Sylvia said...

In my blog that something for you ,and I hope you enjoy