The Solar Decathlon is an architectural and design competition involving twenty teams from colleges and universities across America. The aim of the contest from the US Department of Energy is to design a sustainable home that uses solar energy. And build it better than anyone else! The judging will continue through October 16th, and the homes will be open to the public through the 18th. They are up now, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. if you have a chance to go by and see.

The reason it's called a decathlon is that there are ten contests all the houses must compete in, for architecture, market viability, engineering, lighting design, communications, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment, and net metering. So in theory, half the teams could win bragging rights in separate titles. That's not usually how such contests turn out.

The team from Cornell University designed the Silo House. It may look like a pair of farm silos, but the inside is all high-tech, with a computer system that controls all home functions in order to maximize energy efficiency.

250_germanyhomeTeam Germany, from the Technische Universität Darmstadt, designed the surPLUShome. The interior has technically one room that is divided by appliances, stairs, and the design of the interior itself, which makes it feel like a much larger space.

250_arizonahomeThe University of Arizona team named their entry SEED [pod]. The design can be adapted and changed to suit the location of the home. Considering the competition is in Washington, the team expects to run the environmental control system (air conditioning) continuously. In Tucson, this would not be necessary.

223house_kentuckyThe team from the University of Kentucky named their entry blue. The artistic license with spelling and punctuation may be a college thing. This house is designed to take advantage of passive cooling, with a breezeway through the center and walls oriented to track the sun through the day. The opacity of the glass walls changes depending on the time of day and climate control needs.

All the Solar Decathlon teams have a website for the project; you can find them by clicking on any team name here. Keep up with scores and overall standings as the competition continues. Whether you like the homes or not, they all have some great ideas that may catch on.