Solar Decathlon 2011-Winners of Engineering Contest


Dear Readers,

If you are in favor of renewable,  clean, or solar energy, please sign this petition for FIT/CLEAN Program, accessible at Thank you very much.

Now, let’s return to Solar Decathlon of 2011. For the Engineering Contest of Solar Decathlon of 2011, each house was evaluated by a group of prominent engineers on the basis of energy efficiency savings, creative design innovations,  the functionality and reliability of each system, and documentation.  “Innovative engineering that maximizes energy efficiency in a home is the heart of the Solar Decathlon,” said Richard King, director of the Solar Decathlon for the U.S.Department of Energy.  “The impresseive houses designed by this year’s collegiate teams all have practical applications that can help every American family save money.  This year’s houses are proving to be highly reliable, which is a testament to their engineering excellence.”

New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington’s First Light, scored 93 out of a possible 100 points, took first place in the Engineering Contest.

New Zealand's First Light house after a stormy day, shines brightly at night


Team members from New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington celebrate after taking first place in Engineering Contest

New Zealand team members work to assemble their First Light house


First Light, Victoria University of Wellington’s U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 entry is inspired by the traditional New Zealand holiday/vacation home, “Kiwi bach”.  First Light’s design reflects a relaxed lifestyle in which socialization and connection to the outdoors are central to living.  There is a triple-glazed skylight and large bi-fold doors at the central section that functions as a bridge between exterior and interior.  A cedar canopy supports the solar array, which produces hot water and generates energy to power the house.  Custom built furniture in the living room can transform to accommodate overnight guests.  An innovative drying cupboard that dries clothes quickly by pumping solar-heated hot water through a heat exchange. Another interesting feature of this house is the use of recycled sheep’s wool as insulation.  Although First Light is inspired by a vacation home, it is already sold/intended as a permanent residence for a New Zealand couple.

SCIArc/Caltech (The Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology) ‘s CHIP received second place in the Engineering Contest with 91 points.

CHIP of  SCI-Arc/Caltech offers a solution to the challenges of home ownership and energy consumption for those living in the Los Angeles area. It is an affordable dwelling with a small footprint that can be used as infill or placed in zoning that accommodates shared lots. One finds a vinyl-coated fabric mesh that protects the house and contains the “outsulation” that envelopes the structure. An interior stepped in multiple levels that distinguish one level from another without compartmentalization. 3-D camera that track movement in the house and adjusts the lights accordingly.  A custom iPad application that displays real-time energy use, controls the shade, and provides instant feedback. I was quite intrigued by the fact that one can simply point/wave in the direction for the lights or movie screen to be turned on or off .

students of SCI/Arc-Caltech (CA Institute of Architecture and CA Institute of Technology) received 2nd place in Engineering Contest

SCI-Arc/Caltech at night after a stormy day

SCI-Arc/Caltech's iPad app to control wirelessly the lights, shade, and entertainment system

The University of Tennessee’s Living Light  took third place with 90 points.

Living Light, of the University of Tennessee, has  forms and spaces  inspired by the cantilever barns of southern Appalachia, the systems in the dynamic facade and integrated roof array are scalable and tunable to a range of climates and applications.  Some of its special features include:  a dynamic double facade system made of alternating translucent and transparent panes and horizontal blinds; sensors that automatically manage the electric lighting (which includes color-changing LED strip lights along the facade);a home automation system that can be programmed  with preferred conditions for activities such as watching a movie or entertaining dinner guests; a blind system sandwiched between two panes of glass (programmed to provide year round lighting and shading;an energy recovery ventilator that harvests air through the double facade system to supply the house with passively warmed or cooled fresh air.

University of Tennessee's Living Light shines brightly at night after a stormy day

Students from the University of Tennessee work on Living Light's eco-friendly landscaping

two low carbon transportation options: a bike and an electric vehicle charging station 


More (photos and videos) to come in future posts. Thanks to many of the photos shared by Stefano Paltera & Carol Anna).


sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker,

Any comments and suggestions are welcomed at

Please also get into the habit of checking at these sites below for more on solar energy topics:

HTML adl



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Solar Decathlon 2011-Winners of Engineering Contest”

  1. Arnold Says:

    the greatest comments ever. Well Said!

  2. Julie Says:

    Doing so is a one in a million blog. Excellent Job

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Copyright © 2011-2018 · Susan Sun Nunamaker All Rights Reserved ·