Revisiting the Solar Decathlon
I began my Proud Green Home blog chronicling the journey of The City College of New York’s 2011 Solar Decathlon entry. Ever since, I have continued contributing to an organization which raises awareness in all aspects of residential sustainability, creating a conversation of key players from all levels of the building industry.
With the start of the New Year, it highly appropriate to discuss one of my personal highlights in 2013: my journey back to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon!
After a long road-trip to Irvine, California, a welcoming rush of familiarity greeted me as I made my way to a central concrete axis, with a unique array of homes lined neatly on both sides. This time, the Solar Decathlon took place in the hot desert climate of Southern California, quite appropriate for a competition whose prototypes utilized solar infrastructure to produce power.
The student teams did an amazing job with their homes and public presentation! This year there was a wide representation of schools and their respective geographic locations- competitors hailed from outside the United States, and from the East to West Coast.
Several themes remained largely consistent amongst the homes. Modularity’s presence was prevalent! In other words, these homes could be taken apart in smaller assemblies or components, reinforcing the concept of prefabrication. Off-site fabrication is greener because of controlled production conditions which generally lead to less waste generation.
From my visits to the home, I was also in awe of the well-crafted interiors, the use of active and passive techniques to create energy, the integrative design approach with climate and the variety in architectural style.
This year, the Solar Decathlon also hosted the XPO, an effort to further educate the public on clean and renewable energy sources. Manufacturers, energy efficient companies, and government-sponsored initiatives were all available resources for the public.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative was one of the highlighted features of the exposition. This program aims to make solar energy affordable and accessible to United States residents, expelling myths of its high costs as compared with other forms of electricity. Another bonus feature of the 2013 Decathlon this year was the Transportation Zone, where I had the opportunity to test drive one of Toyota’s fuel-efficient hybrid cars.
The next time the Solar Decathlon is in your area (or fly across the country, like I did) go visit! The event is free and open to the public. There is no better motivation for getting your home on track to be more eco-friendly.
The homes serve as inspirational exhibits of sustainability, showcasing green products, the latest design and construction technologies, and a passion to connect homeowners with the building industry.
For information on the 2015 Solar Decathlon, check out: http://www.solardecathlon.gov/
Farah Naz Ahmad was born in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from The City College of New York. She is a LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design + Construction. Her career goal is to make an impact on the field of sustainability in design and construction. Her past roles as President of CCNY's American Institute of Architecture Students and as a team leader for the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon have increased her passion for eco-friendly design.www