Solared out

Technische Universitat Darmstadt in Germany won first place in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2007 Solar Decathlon, which showcased the future of sustainable home design and the ingenuity of some wicked-smart college kids. Twenty university teams, from Missouri to Madrid, descended upon National Mall in Washington, D.C., in early October to construct model homes powered entirely by the sun. Each home was assembled on site and judged in 10 categories (architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort zone, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance, getting around). Using everything from passive solar lighting to solar hot-water heaters to photovoltaic rooftops, teams harnessed the sun’s energy to run appliances, provide sufficient lighting, control interior temperature and charge an electric vehicle. By combining low-impact or renewable building materials, energy-efficient appliances and a functional layout, the homes demonstrate that it’s possible to live off the grid without sacrificing amenities or quality of living. Find out more and take a virtual tour of the homes at