Solar Decathlon 2011 – Sunday

After a bit of a rocky start on Sunday morning (apparently keeping a Metro ticket next to a cell phone erases it), we made it to the Solar Decathlon 2011 site under moderate cloud cover – but thankfully no rain. The site was fairly empty since we were there before public hours. Below are a few highlights from the first day. Stay tuned for daily recaps, in depth interviews, and articles at week’s end.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (in no particular order) – Part 1:

Appalachian State – Overall, I was pleased with the design of the house. It was the only one we visited so far that took advantage of the entire site by including multiple outbuildings and auxiliary storage areas beyond the footprint of the home. The interior was practically laid out with options for entertaining large groups. Another perk was the awesome marketing materials which doubled as a hat. How can you not like hats? Videos of hat folding demonstrations will follow shortly.

Solar Decathlon - Appalachian State
Solar Decathlon – Appalachian State

Middlebury College – Another great design with beautiful material choices. The plan was efficient and divided spaces well while maintaining visual connections. Expansive deck space and an enormous kitchen with tons of storage made this design stand out as a contender for practical applications (read: normal non-architect people would want to live here). I have an interview with this team coming up and I’ll be sure to get the scoop on what makes this house stand out from the crowd.

Solar Decathlon - Middlebury College
Solar Decathlon – Middlebury College

Ohio State University – While the plan of this house is simplistic and quite efficient, the implementation of details left something to be desired. Plywood was used regularly (and we know how I feel about that), and the house was crowded during our walk through. While that may have influenced my overall assessment, there were a few flaws that can’t be overlooked (ex: air supply vents are positioned under the built-in banquette, blowing directly onto the legs of anyone sitting in front of them). PV panels on the roof are semi-obscured by the translucent wall cladding, but there seems to be some confusion as to whether the team wanted to highlight the technology or hide it. The mosquito pond – er, rock garden – seems to be a potential maintenance headache. While these issues are small, tweaking the design would make this go from ‘above average’ to ‘excellent’.

Solar Decathlon - Ohio State University
Solar Decathlon – Ohio State University

Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology – The exterior aesthetic left something to be desired, as the mass of monochromatic wood felt a bit imposing for a front facade. However, the interior was surprisingly bright and open feeling. The entry seemed a bit odd (I’ll have to review the plans to discover it’s intended use), but the living and kitchen areas were quite well done. There was ample room for guests, and the kitchen was appropriately sized for the soon-to-be-owners: Habitat for Humanity candidates who will receive the house upon completion of the Solar Decathlon event. One concern is how the vertical wire ‘banisters’ will fare with three children under 10 hanging onto them.

Solar Decathlon - Parsons
Solar Decathlon – Parsons

In my attempts to do ‘microblogging’ I’m calling it quits for the evening and will continue with updates on which teams succeeded or failed with proper entry design tomorrow! (looking at awesome stuff all day can be exhausting, you know). Stay tuned for more Solar Decathlon 2011 updates!



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