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Goals and History of Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon Competition faces one of the biggest challenges of mankind, the need for an ecologically sound energy use in building. As an internationally recognized event the competition aims to strengthen the necessary development by heading for several goals:

1. Educating the student participants as to the benefits of energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building technologies.

2.Raising awareness among the general public about renewable energy and energy efficiency, and how solar energy technologies can reduce energy.

3. Helping solar energy technologies enter the marketplace faster.

4. Fostering collaboration among students from different academic disciplines.

5. Promoting an integrated or “whole building design” approach to new construction.

6. Demonstrating to the public the potential of Zero Energy Homes, which produce as much energy from renewable sources as they consume.

The inaugural event 2002 answered several basic questions about energy efficient building design. At first the most scoring Design and Livability Contest showed, that solar homes have a aesthetic appeal, high function and comfort for users. And with more than 100,000 visitors it demonstrated the need for a change in building design. But the question, whether zero-energy homes are feasible in practice was not clarified. Only five teams were able to score in the energy balance contest.

Many of the teams returned to the 2005 Solar Decathlon to show improved or new designs on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The solar community increased to 18 teams with several international participants. The architecture shown in the competition became international as well. But as the sun did not shine during the competition days – only three teams got points in energy balance and it was still not clear, if zero-energy homes are possible or not.

The 2007 Solar Decathlon answered this question. 15 of 20 teams were able to score in Energy Balance. And with the high-ranked contests Architecture and Engineering the surplus of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) became obvious to the public. With the contest market viability the teams showed the market potentials of their design and more than 150,000 visitors emphasized this. After the event the Spain and the U.S. government constituted the Solar Decathlon Europe – an international movement was born.

The 2009 Solar decathlon tries to answer the question, if plus energy homes are possible within a grid-tied dwelling. And the Solar Decathlon Europe already put forward the question about sustainable plus energy homes. We invite all interested to follow the output of the Solar Decathlon – there is still far more to come.

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