What is the Solar Decathlon?
An Energy Efficient House
Solar Decathlon 2009 was a competition in which 20 teams of university students competed to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The Solar Decathlon was also an event to which the public were invited to observe the powerful combination of solar energy, energy efficiency, and the best in home design.
Teams of students each designed an 800-square-foot house, powered entirely by the sun. In a quest to stretch every last watt of electricity generated by the solar panels on their roofs, the students absorbed the lesson that energy is a precious commodity. They strived to innovate, using high-tech materials and design elements in ingenious ways. Along the way, the students learned how to raise funds and communicate about team activities. They collected supplies and talked to contractors. They built their solar houses, learning as they went.
Most parts of each house were prefabricated in modular sections, which allowed teams to truck them to the National Mall in Washington DC. Once there, teams spent a hectic few October days doing final assembly and testing before the competition began. The teams then competed in ten contests designed to assess each house’s strengths and weaknesses in a variety of categories, such as architecture, engineering, and market viability.The public were invited to tour the solar homes and event exhibits during the competition.
A Mutually Beneficial Collaboration
The Boston Architectural College (BAC) and Tufts University worked together for Solar Decathlon 2009, forming a consortium that combined resources and expertise to meet and exceed the Solar Decathlon project goals. This consortium used the competition as an organizational catalyst to address issues of energy consumption as well as larger challenges of sustainability at local, regional, and international levels.
Tufts brought cutting edge research in engineering, biology and environmental policy-making to the project. Tufts faculty, staff and students have a deep understand the real challenges of reducing energy consumption through the efforts of the Office of Sustainability and the Division of Operations, and have substantial experience in engaging communities on many levels.
Boston Architectural College (BAC)
The BAC is the only architecture and design school in the United States with a concurrent practice curriculum, in which students practice design while studying. Bridging practice with research, BAC students significantly increased the cross-germination of ideas, assets, and methodology in addressing the design challenges of the Solar Decathlon house.
The Triple Bottom Line
Team Boston’s goal was to balance the “Triple Bottom Line” of sustainability, taking into consideration economic factors, ecological impacts, and social equity issues associated with the house design. The team attempted to balance environmental considerations with economic and social needs to develop a house that could be immediately reproduced for the average American.
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