Looking for something to do this week? If you are in the greater Los Angeles area, come check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) sixth Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. Currently on view through October 13, this (free!) event showcases nineteen student-built, solar-powered homes that claim to be exemplars of sustainable housing. After being closely monitored by the DOE throughout the length of the competition, one team will be crowned as winner for successfully blending affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.
Catch a glimpse of each project, ranked in order of the current standings, after the break.
HARVEST HOME / Team Capitol DC (The Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University)
HARVEST HOME is an ecologically responsible house that harvests and replenishes natural resources to forge a deep-rooted connection with the natural environment. A habitat for renewal and regeneration, the house features sophisticated control and biomedical systems to serve returning U.S. military veterans and help them adjust and flourish in a sustainable civilian community.
Radiant House / Santa Clara University
Radiant House is driven by three E's: efficiency, economics, and elegance. One of the house’s major innovations takes bamboo to a new level by using the sustainable material for structural wall and joist systems.
fluxHome / University of Southern California
fluxHome combines a transformable envelope system with customizable components and smart-home technology to allow it to be configured in a multitude of lifestyle scenarios. By re-imagining the suburban tract home as a dynamic spatial environment, the house reflects the diverse lifestyles and ecologies known to Southern California.
Start.Home / Stanford University
With modular architecture and advanced controls to optimize each component, the Start.Home aims to spark a revolution by lowering the entry barrier for an ultra-efficient house and making sustainability trendy, social, and affordable.
Ecohabit / Stevens Institute of Technology
Ecohabit adapts to its occupants' needs and provides them with feedback on ways to reduce energy use to live more sustainably, while its L shape maximizes views of, and access to, the generous outdoor living space.
DesertSol / Las Vegas (University of Nevada Las Vegas)
With reverence to the sun as both a source of harsh conditions and a solution for sustainable living, DesertSol harnesses abundant sunlight for solar electricity while capturing rain to provide evaporative cooling and irrigation. The ultra-efficient house is envisioned as a vacation home for a seasonal retreat—a basecamp for desert adventures that responds to its unique environment.
LISI / Team Austria (Vienna University of Technology)
Powered by a rooftop solar photovoltaic system, Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation (LISI) generates more power than it uses over the course of a year. The house adapts to a range of climate zones and flexes to meet a variety of lifestyles.
InSite / Middlebury College
Targeted to young Vermont families, InSite was built with the belief that “community is a natural resource, sustainability is as much about people as it is about energy, and constructing less means we can create more."
Borealis / Team Alberta (University of Calgary)
Borealis addresses the housing needs of professionals working in remote locations, such as the northern regions of Alberta, Canada. This modular house is easy to transport and assemble, it's affordable, and it provides a comfortable and sustainable home away from home.
ECHO / Team Ontario (Queen's University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College)
ECHO is a functional and livable starter house that strikes a balance between engineering and architecture. The net-positive home achieves its ultra-high efficiency by first minimizing heating and cooling requirements through a highly insulated, airtight envelope and controlled solar gains. It then efficiently conditions the interior space with an integrated mechanical system.
AIR House / Czech Republic (Czech Technical University)
The AIR House, a prototype for an affordable (A), innovative (I), and recyclable (R) house, is designed for the Czech tradition of spending weekends in the countryside. Czech seniors can use the AIR House as a weekend getaway during their pre-retirement years and as a permanent residence after retirement.
Delta T-90 House / Norwich University
The Delta T-90 House is guided by the beliefs that high-performance, solar-powered dwellings should be available to all and that good design is not a function of cost. By maximizing the building envelope first and then using simplified mechanical systems as a supplement, the design prioritizes passive functionality and reduces primary energy demand to minimize lifetime operational costs.
UrbanEden / North Carolina (The University of North Carolina at Charlotte)
Inspired by Charlotte's reinvestment in its urban core as the focal point of a thriving region, the ultra-efficient UrbanEden signifies a commitment to sustainability, vibrancy, diversity, and technological innovation. The house provides sophisticated urban ambiance while helping occupants reduce their carbon footprint by fusing enthusiasm for the city with respect for and intimacy with nature.
DALE / SCI-Arc + Caltech
Made of two movable, prefabricated modules that open to allow the outdoors in, DALE (the Dynamic Augmented Living Environment) celebrates the active California lifestyle and fosters thrivability through its dynamic architecture.
Chameleon House / Missouri S&T (Missouri University of Science and Technology)
With versatile features that form a chameleon skin—and spaces designed to maximize flexibility, comfort, and convenience—the Chameleon House flexes easily to meet as many market and regional needs as possible.
The Phoenix House / Kentucky + Indiana (University of Louisville, Ball State University, and University of Kentucky)
The Phoenix House is a permanent solution for disaster relief housing and is designed to be quickly deployed and assembled while preserving a high standard of living.
ADAPT / Team Texas (The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College)
Built at the confluence of two nations and three states, ADAPT honors the myriad cultures present in Far West Texas and uses innovative technologies to model flexibility, utility, and high efficiency in a new suburban environment.
SHADE / ASUNM (Arizona State University and The University of New Mexico)
SHADE (Solar Homes Adapting for Desert Equilibrium) is intended to grow and adapt with its users by creating microclimates that mediate between the landscape and the interior environment. With independent modules that can be combined in various configurations and a prominent solar canopy that provides a shaded outdoor extension of the house, SHADE is built for a community-oriented, indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
PEAK / West Virginia
PEAK adapts modern technologies to traditional architecture while capturing the Appalachian spirit of West Virginia with an aim to change the vision society has of energy-saving homes by combining affordability, energy efficiency, and reliability within a comfortable setting.
Stay tuned for more information, as we will be publishing in-depth overviews of each project throughout the next week.
Rankings last updated: Oct. 6, 2013, at 08:22 a.m. PDT. Project descriptions provided by DOE.