Helaine, Doppler and I spent the afternoon at the 2013 Solar Decathlon. This year the decathlon moved out of Washington to the Orange County Great Park (formerly El Toro Marine Air Station) here in Irvine.
It’s a two week event with college teams from the US and around the world. That’s how we ran into Jakob Doppler from Austria. I’m not sure how pleased he was to find our dog shared his name!
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.
The homes were modestly sized, all under 1,000 square feet. They felt more spacious through design and clever use of outdoor space. In fact all the homes managed to make the outdoor space seem an integral part of the inside of the house.
All the homes took advantage of the Sun with solar panels (and in one case solar shingles), and well placed windows, vents and doors. Many had living walls filled with plants. Recapturing rain water was also a common feature.
This is what the future looks like. There’s no reason not to make our homes more efficient and compatible with their environment. A few I’d live in tomorrow.