The 20 collegiate teams chosen for the 2011 Solar Decathlon headed to Orlando, Florida last week for the International Builders’ Show where they met with media, exhibited scaled models of their current designs, and had their Design Drawings reviewed – the last stages of preparation, feedback, and red-flags prior to the September assembly at the National Mall in Washington DC.
In a strange turn of events, the National Park Service and Department of Energy decided to simultaneously announce last week that the Solar Decathlon would not be hosted at the National Mall. Contestants were blindsided by the announcement to relocate this years U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. The launching pad for the largest solar competition in the world, where contestants are educating the general public about sustainable living and further are held fiscally responsible under competition rules for maintaining and restoring their respective sites to their natural state following the exhibition, is apparently not good for sustainability.
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With well over a year of dedicated time and energies (the submission process began in November 2009), the teams were greeted with the news that they will not be showcasing their homes on the National Mall – the front yard of America – as originally planned.
The decision to revoke the permit so late in the game directly effects teams as they are approximately 6 months from shipping their final Solar Decathlon designs to Washington DC, from all over the world. The teams are extremely concerned how this haphazard decision will effect their designs and engineered systems based on the site, budgets, shipping logistics, and financial backers – as the National Mall was an incentive for teams to gain support.
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon stated the following on their website, “Over the years, the National Mall—the nation’s front yard—has played host to many large, public events, which have impacted the long-term health of the National Mall. In support of the historic effort underway to protect, improve, and restore the National Mall, the Department of Energy, in conjunction with the National Park Service, has decided to seek a new site for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011.
The National Mall, a great American treasure, has served as a unique launching pad for the Solar Decathlon, hosting the first four events from 2002 to 2009.
The Department of Energy is presently researching alternative venues to hold the event this fall, and will announce the selected location in the near future.”
A park, a memorial, and a platform, the National Mall location in the mind of SCI-Arc/Caltech 2011 Solar Decathlon Team Manager Elisabeth Neigert is a place of “honor and credibility and prestige, and is an international platform to display all of the efforts teams are putting forth solving problems of affordable sustainable housing.”
Neigert continued, “The teams believe in what they are doing, the research, the teamwork, educating the public and changing the way Americans live and the way the world lives.” Despite the obvious hiccup during the International Builders’ Show, a time when teams are tying up loose ends, the Solar Decathlon teams managed to present their latest designs and in their downtime mobilize themselves in an effort to have the decision by the Department of Energy and National Park Service overturned. “The silver lining,” Elisabeth shared, ” is that all of the teams have bound together because they believe in the cause beyond the competition.”
Solar Decathlon Teams 2011:
Appalachian State University Florida International University Middlebury College New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington The Ohio State University Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology Purdue University The Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology Team Belgium: Ghent University Team Canada: University of Calgary Team China: Tongji University Team Florida: The University of South Florida, Florida State University, The University of Central Florida, and The University of Florida Team Massachusetts: Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell Team New Jersey: Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey and New Jersey Institute of Technology Team New York: The City College of New York Tidewater Virginia: Old Dominion University and Hampton University University of Hawaii University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University of Maryland The University of Tennessee