What is a Solar Decathlon?


WORDS: Jahla Seppanen | IMAGES: U.S. Department of Energy

The public tours the international U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon featuring energy efficient, solar-powered homes built by 20 university teams from North American and Europe on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009.

Imagine you’re walking through a neighborhood of energy-efficient houses, topped with solar panels and designed in bold and inventive layouts to optimize smart energy production products. No, this isn’t a residential block in a wealthy area of Silicon Valley. It’s a display of what the future of smart home-building and owning could look like, designed, engineered, and built from the ground up by a group of college students for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2017.

Open and free to the public, the Solar Decathlon kicks off October 5, 2017 in Denver, CO, spanning nine days over two weekends (Oct. 5 and Oct. 8: 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Oct. 9: 1 p.m.–7 p.m., Oct. 12 and Oct. 15: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.). Judge for yourself which of the 10 designs wows in the judging categories of Architecture, Market Potential Engineering, Communications, Innovation, Water Solutions, Health and Comfort, Appliances, Home Life, and Energy Production. Meanwhile official judges from the US Department of Energy will be behind closed doors analyzing these designs and their multi-disciplinary teams, choosing an overall winner.SureHouseThe 2015 Solar Decathlon first-place finisher, Stevens Institute of Technology, for instance, built their winning design with a motivation to minimize damages from storms such as Superstorm Sandy, which devastated Hoboken, New Jersey, where Stevens is located. Their SURE HOUSE therefore included an innovative composite sheathing that wraps the underside of the house keeping up to six feet of floodwater from entering the structure. Meanwhile a rainscreen system on its façade promoted drainage and evaporation, and an open web wooden truss floor system allowed for airflow, which minimizes rotting, mold, and structural issues.

In its eighth iteration, the 2017 Solar Decathlon promises to bring bigger, brighter, and more boundary-pushing solutions than ever before, as each year the Decathlon evolves its criteria to real-world industry and market condition changes. We’ve already seen houses made from traditional wood framing to structural insulated panel construction to incorporating marine technologies or creating new construction techniques all together. So while you go to privy the next generation of smart homes, visitors of all ages can find ways to bolster their own home-owning conservation and preservation strategies; which really is the future of residential occupation. In this capacity, Modern In Denver is proud to be a sponsor of the 2017 Solar Decathlon and suggests Denverites and suburb surrounders take a stroll through solar lane this October.

EXAMPLESGet inspired by reading 10 Reasons to Visit the Solar Decathlon, and we’ll see you east of N. Richfield St., between E. 61st St. to the north, N. Salida St. to the east, and E. 60th Ave. to the south— accessible by train, bike, and car.

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