This is the first year the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon isn’t taking place in Washington, D.C. and it’s the first year a team of students from the nation’s capitol is participating in the competition.
Team Capitol DC includes students from Catholic University of America, George Washington University and American University.
The 2013 Solar Decathlon brought together 19 teams from around the world in Irvine, Calif. to display their student engineered, designed and constructed solar-powered homes. The competition is judged on 10 criteria, including how much energy each house produces, as well as architecture, engineering and affordability.
While the DC team had to bring its Harvest House to California for display, it was a one-way journey. The solar-powered energy efficient house will stay in Southern California.
“The whole house is designed to be therapeutic,” said Mary Sper, a member of the landscape design group on the team. “It was built to be a transition home with a wounded veteran in mind.”
The veteran has already been selected and the house will be moved to San Diego after the competition.
The landscaping around the house includes native Southern California vegetation to keep maintenance requirements low, It also brings in pollinators for the vegetable garden.
Like many of the homes at the Solar Decathlon, Harvest House emphasizes the home’s exterior almost as much as the interior. The landscaping is thoughtful and elaborate, yet designed to be easy to manage.
“From the very beginning, the architects and the landscape team, everyone knew the concept was to build a comfortable and healing oasis that helps an individual connect with the outdoors and provides all the equipment to help in recovery. That was the concept in the beginning and we stuck to it,” Sper added.
In addition to expansive outdoor vegetation, the home includes a soothing water feature and a high outdoor table designed for someone in a wheelchair. The entire home is outfitted with reclaimed and student-milled wood.
Wood, especially reclaimed wood, is low in embodied energy cost. It’s also an added thoughtful touch that contributes to the home’s beauty and comfort. The wood floors inside the home came from an Ohio church.
The home distributes heating and cooling through the floor instead of the ceiling and incorporates solar thermal technology for hot water heating. Equipped with 32 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels, the house produces more than 100 percent of the energy it requires.