Green Tech Homes of the Future

The Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., showcases present and future innovations.


Team Germany's solar-powered house won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Want to see how future homes may look and what green technologies they will include? Check out the virtual tours of homes built for the Solar Decathlon held recently in Washington, D.C.

The Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition among college and university students to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The green technologies extend far beyond solar technology, though. The temporary homes built on the National Mall featured everything from automated window louvers that help regulate temperatures to passive heating water walls made from recycled bottles to gray water irrigation systems and loads of energy-saving LED (light emitting diode) lamps.

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The winning entry was a cube-shaped, two-story structure covered in 11.1-kilowatts of solar panels, some of which double as louvers that open to help ventilate the home. Built by Team Germany from the Darmstadt University of Technology, the structure is a progression of sorts from the school’s 2007 winning entry, in which the entire exterior consisted of louvered shutters, with each louver containing solar cells. This year’s winning home also had a cool energy monitoring system. The winning home finished first in the important net-metering category for efficient energy usage.

Other cool projects included:

  • Team California won first place in the Architecture Contest for its strikingly modular solar-powered house.

  • The Virginia Tech house incorporated an automated moveable wall system and cool “shutter screen” that adjusts according to weather and temperature. The house is operable via iPhone apps and has a gray-water filtration system that doubles as a landscape element.
  • University of Minnesota’s solar-powered house took first place in the Lighting Design. The team says it takes the equivalent energy consumption of five incandescent bulbs to provide lightning both inside and outside its solar-powered house.
  • Automated external shading and krypton-filled glass helped insulate Team Ontario/BC’s solar-powered house (shown in photo below), which also featured “flexible furniture” and a touchscreen-operated control and energy monitoring system.
  • Team Boston used inverters on each of its solar panels and a 3-inch-thick window system that collects heat from outside and emits it into the house.

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of these green technologies in homes being built, and I’m encouraged by the use of energy monitoring and control systems incorporated into these “concepts.”

(Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)


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