After nine days of frenzied construction, the 2015 Solar Decathlon opened to the public yesterday, in Irvine, California. The latest edition of the biennial event sees a small village of 16 houses sprout up in just over a week, planted in the Orange County Great Park, along what was once the El Toro Marine base’s runway. Each structure is the work of a student team, hailing mostly from U.S. universities, though schools from Munich, Singapore, Panama and Rome have partnered with American schools.
Now that the houses are completed, the public is invited into the village to learn about the technologies and solutions employed, and about how they could implement such strategies into their own homes and lives. Meanwhile, the houses are being monitored for their performance and judged in a series of 10 contests that examine architecture, market appeal, energy balance, affordability and comfort, among other key considerations. Though the competition seems fast-paced, it’s actually the end of a long journey; these teams have spent two years planning out their houses, down to the last eco-conscious detail.
Among the entries this year is the Nest Home, from Missouri University of Science and Technology. Composed of three shipping containers, it can easily expand to accommodate a growing family, or downsizing later in life. Inspired by the way a bird builds its home, this Nest is constructed from repurposed and reused materials. The cladding is reclaimed wood from shipping pallets and the insulation is made from recycled denim. The triangular configuration of the shipping containers combines with glass walls and overhead canopies to form a large, open, central space that is flooded with natural light. Outside, a garden, which is tended with the help of a greywater reuse system, helps to feed the family.
Also noteworthy is Clemson University’s Indigo Pine, representing the South Carolina institution’s first time at the decathlon. The house begins as a digital scheme, which is then CNC carved into about 500 of plywood sheets, making smaller pieces that interlock to assemble a three-bedroom home as easily as a toy. Planned to create little waste during manufacturing and to be efficiently flat packed and shipped, the Sim[PLY] system saves energy even before the concrete lung foundation, which helps regulate temperatures, has been laid. And before the solar water and energy systems have been installed.
The Solar Decathlon runs until October 18, and is open to the public Thursday through Sunday this weekend and next. The winner announcement in scheduled for Saturday, October 17.