German solar house wows judges
20 October 2007, Washington (dpa) - Germany may be one of Europe's least sunny countries but when it comes to solar power, the country has been out in front - giving financial incentives to residents who generate their own power, producing some of the world's most sought-after solar cells, and now, designing the best solar house in an international university competition sponsored by the US government. The team from the Technical University of Darmstadt Friday took the top award of the Solar Decathlon, whi
20 October 2007
Washington (dpa) - Germany may be one of Europe's least sunny countries but when it comes to solar power, the country has been out in front - giving financial incentives to residents who generate their own power, producing some of the world's most sought-after solar cells, and now, designing the best solar house in an international university competition sponsored by the US government.
The team from the Technical University of Darmstadt Friday took the top award of the Solar Decathlon, which this year drew projects from 20 universities in the US, Spain, Germany, Puerto Rico and Canada.
The goal was to build a house that would produce more energy than it could use, and the results were displayed on the National Mall, overlooked by the US Capitol dome and flanked by some of the world's most famous museums.
For more than a week, the structures have been drawing in crowds. Second place went to the University of Maryland outside Washington and third to Santa Clara University in sunny California.
Hannes Guddat, one of the students on the winning team, was ecstatic over the award.
"Winning here in the country of energy wasters is especially fun," Guddat said after the announcement Friday afternoon. "But the fact this competition takes place here shows that thinking in the US is also slowly beginning to change."
In addition to winning the overall award, the Darmstadt students also took the top award for best architecture with features such as adjustable louvres for light flow, seating and sleeping areas that fold into the floor and a bathroom that can be expanded by folding out the walls in different configurations.
"We wanted to create a home," Therese Heidecke, an architecture student on the team, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "It should be more a home than a solar house. No one wants to live in a spaceship or a robot."
The teams from the 20 universities spent the past two years designing and building the 74-square-metre, solar-powered homes for the Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the US Department of Energy.
Their light wooden panels, reflective roofs and high-tech interiors drew thousands of spectators who wrapped around the homes awaiting tours over the past days.
In one house, the sophisticated computer brain monitored the weather forecast and predicted energy needs for the coming days.
Competitors were judged in 10 areas including architecture, engineering, market appeal and how well the house could accomplish common household tasks such as running a clothes dryer and maintaining even refrigerator temperature.
The University of Maryland house incorporated grass on the outside walls and a waterfall inside that represented the state's Chesapeake Bay and helped to regulate the building's temperature.
Students worried anxiously over some of the challenges, checking nervously whether their towels had dried.
The competition also required energy be used to power an electric car and teams received points for how many miles they were able to drive.
The event is the third Solar Decathlon since 2002. Part of President George W Bush's energy policy is to make solar energy as affordable as other forms of electricity by 2015. Demand for solar energy has increased 25 per cent in the past 15 years, the Department of Energy says.
"The Solar Decathlon is a great demonstration of the ways in which technology, science and design can be blended in the production of net-zero-energy homes," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said. "Promoting the early commercialization of solar and other energy efficient technologies will help secure America's clean energy future."
Organizers hoped the students' innovations would inspire professional home builders and the village provided workshops on green building standards and other issues to entice them.
The majority of participants came from US universities, but international institutions faced special challenges.
A team composed of students from three Canadian universities - the University of Quebec's technology school, the University of Montreal and McGill University - wanted a design that would function at higher Canadian latitudes as well as in Washington - a challenge because the angle of the solar panels on the building's roof is determined by its orientation on the globe.
Rather than have panels optimal to Washington just for the competition, Team Montreal compromised with an angle that would work for both Montreal and Washington.
Getting a house full of high tech features across the Atlantic Ocean proved even more challenging for the German and Spanish teams.
The Darmstadt team spent nearly 70,000 euros (100,000 dollars) just to ship their house. They had never seen it all in one piece until they assembled it in Washington, and were relieved it had suffered no damage during transport, Heidecke said.
The Darmstadt house "pushed the envelope on all levels" and in addition to the top award for architecture, also took tops in lighting and engineering, a statement issued by the judges said.
"The lighting jury loved the way this house glows at night. The engineering jury gave this team an innovation score that was as high as you could go, and said nobody did the integration of the PV (photovoltaic) system any better," the judges said.
Subject: German news