Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The 2011 Solar Decathlon: Three Entrants Which Included Food Growing in their Models

Each year, as a blogger, I've enjoyed covering the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon which takes place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. In this post, I've picked three of the college student's models which each incorporated gardens into their plans. At the end is a link to view all of the contest model videos, if you wish, including entries from China, New Zealand, and Canada, too!

We should all pay attention, because I do believe that small, energy efficient houses incorporating growing your own food spaces are the way of the future. A house doesn't have to be expensive to provide reliable shelter, either, but we American's have a hard time imagining something other than what is being thrown at us by the profit-driven developers in the housing industry.

Less will be more. Stuff will be less.

1) The modern homestead from Appalachian State University:

2) Not surprisingly, from Middlebury, Vermont, we get a team which includes food growing in their design:

3) Florida International University's model also has an outdoor eating garden:

Go here to see each of the college contestants project videos.


  1. I have followed the manufactured and modular home industry for most of my adult life. I have always thought that manufactured housing is more sustainable, efficient and cost effective than conventional site built construction. Manufactured homes are the most energy efficient housing around. Manufactured houses can also be removed, retooled and recycled.

    While I thought that the projects were well intentioned and really cool looking; I couldn't help but think that what they all really looked like were trailers with solar panels. I don't mean that in a disparaging way. I think that the future of housing is more likely to be trailers with solar panels than these rather expensively constructed site built models.

  2. J1
    You don't know how close I came to making a comment about prefab in this post. Agree entirely with what you wrote.

    But, even more efficient, I think, would be straw bale houses, constructed on the spot. I knew a straw bale builder back in Nebr. who was great and his end products were beautiful, absolutely beautiful! The mass keeps them energy efficient and if you combine it with solar hot water on the roof which circulates through the floor to provide heat you've got a good winter (and summer) home, too.

  3. I took a straw bale course at Southeast Community College in Lincoln this past spring. The instructor was Joyce Coppinger. She mentioned she was taking over the duties from a fella who had done it for many years prior to her time. That's likely who you are referring to.

    I have recently been retrained into the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration field and found myself at odds with the straw bale approach.

    It was explained to me that straw bale houses 'breathe'. This is quite the double edge sword in the NE climate. Efficiency of equipment operation to achieve the goal of inhabitant's comfort is reached through controlling the 'breathing'. This climate has much wider 'operating parameters' than designed mechanical systems can possibly have.

    For example, while watching your posted video's, I wondered what each building's heating/cooling load calculations looked like.

  4. RBM
    I did not know you are in Lincoln! Small world. The builder of whom I speak I believe left the region a number of years ago, I think his first name was Karl. He was hired to do the Iain Nicolson Aud­ubon Center near Grand Island. Google images of it. Also see, I had a friend who used him to build a structure and I also got a tour of his house once. He was an artist who was a builder. Other than that, I think you know way more about the subject than I do... Sounds like a great skill to acquire.