Last year I was pretty bummed I missed the Solar Decathlon at OC Great Park. My feelings were compounded when James sent me pictures and a write-up to post on the PJHM blog. Listen up y’all: you don’t need to be an architect to appreciate the event. Originally started by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002, the Solar Decathlon is a competition that challenges collegiate teams from around the world to design and build a home that is:
1. Powered exclusively by solar energy and
2. Utilizes innovative energy technology and sustainable architecture.
Working at PJHM, an architecture firm that specializes in educational facilities, one cannot help but be interested in designing for today’s challenges: energy, environment, and society. The key objective of the Solar Decathlon is to provide habitats that answer all of those challenges. The U.S. Solar Decathlon has been so successful that a European edition now takes place biennially between the U.S. competition. The Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 this July was hosted in Versailles, France, adjacent to the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles.
Well, guess who was in France this July…and who just so happened to be in Paris…and who just so happened to spend time out at Versailles? That’s right: ME!
It was incredible, but also incredibly ironic because it was held on the grounds of Versailles. The Château boasts 721,206 square feet of floorspace, with grounds that measure larger than the entire island of Manhattan. A 17-acre palace that has more than 700 rooms, 2000 windows, 1250 fireplaces, and 67 staircases…..that’s a whole lot of building material.
So one day I am standing in front of this Baroque behemoth, the next day I am across the street, looking at homes composted of lightweight and flexible high-performance textiles. Homes that are affordable and easy to prefabricate, transport, and construct. Ironically appropriate indeed.
The Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 has an extensive evaluation process. There are 10 contests with a total of 1000 points. 7 of the 10 contests are evaluated by a jury of experts, all from their specifically related fields. The 3 remaining contests are evaluated by taking the prototypes and continuously monitoring them through a series of sensors installed in every room. The 10 contests are as follows:
Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 Teams:
20 Official Teams created 20 Zero Energy Prototypes. 16 Countries participated over 3 Continents. 15 Official Languages are represented and 41 Universities participated. USA teamed up with 2 separate European teams: Techstyle Haus and Maison Reciprocity.
I am so grateful I had the opportunity to spend a day at the competition, but a day was not nearly enough. In that same respect, one blog post is not nearly enough! I went through several of the homes and a few even gave me an english-speaking tour. With over 300 pictures and 20 snippets of video, I’ll be dedicating the next few weeks to some of the prototypes I went through. If you don’t already know who the winners of this year’s #SDE2014, you can watch the video below.©Solar Decathlon Europe 2014