Every year, the United States Department of Energy hosts the Solar Decathlon, where teams of students from universities all over the world compete to build a functioning solar powered home in an effort to raise awareness of sustainable living. The competition involves 10 contests over two years. In the end, these homes get disassembled with some of them being sold to cover the cost of building them or help fund the next competition. Most of these houses, however, are used by research teams of the house’s respective university to educate the general population about sustainable living. These homes will go on living long after the competition ends.
The students at Norwich University in Vermont wanted to construct a solar home that would be affordable and dependable, especially so it could hold its own in the cold New England winters. Inspired by Charles and Ray Earnes, two American designers, they wanted to build “the best, for the most, for the least.” Their ingenuity really shone through with their T-90 house. Now that the competition is over, their house will travel to Springfield, Ohio, where it will be featured in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Experiential Design Lab. There, it will be used for research and development, as well as demonstrations for promoting sustainable living and clean energy technology. In addition, the Norwich students are working with home builders in Vermont to produce local versions of the home commercially.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri S&T is a veteran of the Solar Decathlon, competing five times in the event. Over the years, they have applied their experience in past competitions to every competition thereafter. The team of students designed the Chameleon Home Automation System in the 2009 Solar Decathlon and have improved it to serve in their 2013 entry: The Chameleon House. The students aimed to make the home something they themselves would want to live in, and now that the competition has ended, future students will. The Chameleon House will be added to Missouri S&T’s Solar Village, where houses from previous competitions serve as student homes and research centers. The Solar Village is also open for the public to tour, whether they be the general populace, children, investors, or home builders.
Vienna University of Technology
The students of Vienna University in Austria targeted Austria’s tourism in building their competition home. Austria is a major vacation destination due to its very serene landscape of mountains and lakes. This makes tourism a vital aspect of Austria’s economy, so the students decided to make their home a vacation chalet. Titled LISI (Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation), this home away from home is constructed using high quality wood, which is coveted in Austria’s vacation homes. They also implement large glass windows, allowing the resident to enjoy the great outdoors right from their couch. Since the competition ended, Team Austria has been invited to showcase their home at Austria’s largest model home exhibition.
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