News
10.15.2013
Solar On
Team Austria wins first West Coast Solar Decathlon.
Team Austria's winning house at the 2013 Solar Decathlon.
Jason Flakes / Courtesy DOE Solar Decathlon

Team Austria, presenting a sleek, open design called LISI (Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation), has taken the top prize at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The bi-annual event, which invites 19 college teams to build innovative solar powered homes, opened on October 3 at its new location, the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. Competitors were judged on ten categories, including architecture, affordability, and energy efficiency.

Austria’s entry is clad in a curtain of supple white fabric, normally used by militaries as camouflage for snowy locales. The wood-heavy design (about 96 percent of the home is made from the material) unfolds to the elements through sliding pocket doors and large, plant-rich decks. A photovoltaic array powers the home.

 
Winning house by Team Austria.
 

Teams from Las Vegas and the Czech Republic placed just after Austria. The Las Vegas team clad its handsome home, DesertSol, in reclaimed timber, evocative of desert outposts. Team Czech Republic’s AIR House took first place in the architecture segment of the decathlon with a “house within a house” design that provided large swaths of outdoor space.

California teams, while on their home turf, didn’t crack the top spots despite conjuring very impressive schemes. Stanford came in fifth, USC in 10th, UC-Santa Clara in 11th, and SCI-Arc Caltech in 14th.

   
The House by students from the University of Nevada Las Vegas took second place.
 
   
House by Czech Technical University took Third Place.
 

The SCI-Arc Caltech home is one of the most original in the show. Called DALE, the home splits into two pieces on rails. Virtually every home in the contest showcased streamlined, contemporary design and sustainable technologies years ahead of current standards, from smart home apps to grey water management to advanced insulation. Every home generates more energy than it consumes, confirmed event spokesperson Charlotte Seigler.

 

   
House by the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the California Institute of Technology.
 

After a decade on the National Mall in Washington D.C., the competition had overstayed its welcome and was looking for a new place to spread the word about sustainability, noted event founder Richard King. The Great Park beat out sites in 20 cities around the country. Luckily, the event was not affected by the federal government shutdown or by high winds experienced before the first weekend.

With its 11-acre space at the Great Park, the event expanded this year to include not only 19 solar houses, but also an expo showing off sustainable solutions for homes, gardens, and even electric cars and bicycles. Teams had only nine days to build their homes, creating an atmosphere of tension and excitement from the beginning. While some were worried that the Great Park site might not attract large crowds, more than 64,000 people attended the event, with lines snaking out of almost every house in the village."The decathlon teaches us that universities can be perfect laboratories for developing innovations in sustainability," said competition juror Amy E Gardner, who added that the amount of effort put in by students was "enormous."

Sam Lubell

 

   
House by Team Austria.