those solar decathlon homes

Have you heard about Solar Decathlons? College teams build energy-saving homes for a biennial competition, organized by the U.S. Department of Energy. Afterwards, many houses become residences or are available for tours.

The 2013 Decathlon winner

Vienna University of Technology students built a beautiful and energy-surplus home. They plan to make this winning model commercially available to urban and rural customers, starting in Austria. Here’s a quick tour.

Known as LISI, or Living Inspired for Sustainable Innovation, the Austrian entry offers a calming, zen impact.

Known as LISI, or Living Inspired for Sustainable Innovation, the Austrian entry offers a calming, zen impact. (DOE 2013)

Vienna students created a Mad-Men type of great room, with areas for cooking, dining and hanging out.

Vienna students created a Mad-Men type of great room, with areas for cooking, dining and hanging out. (DOE 2013)

A sustainable, upscale looking bathroom has been installed in the Austrian prototype home. (DOE 2013)

A sustainable, upscale looking bathroom has been installed in the Austrian prototype home. (DOE 2013)

There is nothing flashy about the Decathlon winner's private and cozy pod space for sleeping. (DOE 2013)

There is nothing flashy about the Decathlon winner’s private and cozy pod space for sleeping. (DOE 2013)

Earlier Decathlon competitors

The U.S. Solar Decathlon has been held six times, first in Washington, DC and lately in Irvine, CA. Let’s take a look at special homes over the years, including their post-competition whereabouts.

Appalachian State students built home modules connected by a solar panel porch. Today a modified version is available through Deltec, a North Carolina homebuilder. (2011 DOE)

Appalachian State students built home modules connected by a solar panel porch. Today a modified version is available through Deltec, a North Carolina homebuilder. (2011 DOE)

Santa Clara University students created a tube-shaped home that won top awards for architecture and communications. Back on campus, it's used for research purposes. (2009 DOE)

Santa Clara University students created a tube-shaped home that won top awards for architecture and communications. Back on campus, it’s used for research purposes. (2009 DOE)

A Le Corbusier-style stunner was built by students from Spain, Central and South America. Madrid students continue making home improvements in their materials courses. (2007 DOE)

A Le Corbusier-style stunner was built by students from Spain, Central and South America. Madrid students continue making home improvements in their materials courses. (2007 DOE)

Virginia Tech students won the top architectural award for their energy-efficient marvel. Today the home resides at Richmond's Science Museum of Virginia. (2005 DOE)

Virginia Tech students won the top architectural award for their energy-efficient marvel. Today the home resides at Richmond’s Science Museum of Virginia. (2005 DOE)

Crowder College students received the People's Choice award for a not-so-small home. It's one of two Decathlon entries now displayed at the Missouri school. (2002 DOE)

Crowder College students received the People’s Choice award for a not-so-small home. It’s one of two Decathlon entries now displayed at the Missouri school. (2002 DOE)

More Decathlon details

Fortunately, Decathlon archives are open and accessible. To start, we suggest clicking on a year below. You might pick a college and read about its home, or else select one (of 10) contest categories and compare homes.

Summary | 2013 US | 2011 US | 2009 US | 2007 US | 2005 US | 2002 US
Results | 2013 US | 2011 US | 2009 US | 2007 US | 2005 US | 2002 US

conservation cheers to a tiny house

By moving into a well-insulated, smaller house, you easily conserve energy and reduce your footprint. Even in very cold or hot locales, it’s possible to live comfortably and save money.

Exterior: Let’s look at the EDGE house, which stands for “experimental dwelling for a greener environment.” Built several years ago, this AIA-award winning house in Bayfield, Wisconsin costs only $30/month to heat.

Here's the exterior of EDGE, a real energy-saving house. It starts with 480 sq. ft. of living space and north/south facing windows. (Revelations Architect)

Here’s the exterior of EDGE, a real energy-saving house. It starts with 480 sq. ft. of living space and north/south facing windows. (Revelations Architect)

Interior: You’ll discover room to sleep, dine, bathe and hang-out inside EDGE. One reason is all the built-in and multiple-use furniture pieces. To get a sense of the house, we suggest watching this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel video.

The interior is sheathed in plywood, a popular look. See the great room, which opens up the space, along with one of two lofts and the hidden bathroom below. (Revelations Architects)

The interior is sheathed in plywood, a popular look. See the great room, which opens up the space, along with one of two lofts and the bathroom hidden below. (Revelations Architects)

Floor plans: There are two levels, including a 320 sq. ft. main floor and 160 sq. ft. upstairs. We appreciate the large amount of glass which creates views and invites nature into this shared space. As a tiny house, there is some storage though downsizing is a must-do.

The house is well-designed to maximize space, placing the kitchen and bathroom on either side. Upstairs lofts sleep four, with access by staircases. (Revelations Architects)

The house is well-designed to maximize space, placing the kitchen and bathroom on either side. Upstairs lofts sleep four, with access by staircases. (Revelations Architects)

Energy savings: In a Northland News Center video, architect Bill Yudchitz says the EDGE house has geothermal heat, air-to-air heat exchange, radiant floor heat and two barn-like doors that insulate by covering large windows.

What's missing here? The windows have disappeared from view, as heavy sliding walls now cover them and provide insulation for cold nights. (Revelations Architects)

What’s missing here? The windows have disappeared from view, as heavy sliding walls now cover them and provide insulation for cold nights. (Revelations Architects)

Water savings: The EDGE house also uses a rainwater catchment system, where water gets collected on the roof and channeled into reservoirs adjoining the home. Rainwater services both the bathroom and kitchen here.

See the butterfly or V-shaped roof, on top, almost ready to collect raindrops. Below, the roof gutter is getting installed as part of the system. (Revelations Architects)

See the butterfly or V-shaped roof, on top, almost ready to collect raindrops. Below, the roof gutter is getting installed as part of the system. (Revelations Architects)