I had a chance to visit all the houses at the Solar Decathalon on Friday September 23 and Saturday September 24 2011. It was my birthday gift to myself.  All the students have done an amazing job of design, research and construction.  Even in the pouring rain it was a delight to visit each house and see the eagerness of the student guides in sharing their insights and knowledge.  

 

The house I voted for as my favorite was "WaterShed" by the University of Maryland students.  The weaving water throughout the house was beautifully and sensitively done from the roof garden to the wetland pond at the entrance and stream under the bathroom.  Their humidity reducing "waterfall" made a big difference on the indoor environmental quality on a very wet day.  The wide open space for living and dining with adaptable furniture would make for some creative parties.  I loved the bed that becomes a table for a separate office although I'd have to become a lot neater than I am!  The introduction of natural light up high and placement of windows and doors was magical.  

 

A close second for my vote was The Solar Homestead by Appalachiann State University.  The interior design ideas were original from the modular wall panels to the cove lighting to the skylit bathroom. The invented nesting tables and couch should be brought to market.  I loved the bay window seat dining area.  The giant porch would work in a lot of climates.  The attached one room studio with tree bark siding and green planted roof was enchanting.  

 

For third and fourth places I would choose Florida International University and Victoria University, New Zealand.  The perFORM(D)ance Florida house was totally accessible including the bathroom and kitchen.  Every detail was thought out sensitively.  The way the house opened up on all sides with intriguing fold down awning/shutters felt very tropical and lovely to me.  New Zealand was the first house I looked at.  I'm amazed how far the students had to come to participate. The shipping challenges for the modular house pieces were formidable. The wood exterior and interior and butterfly roof form were pleasing to experience.  

 

Kudos to all the students.  What a treasure to have this event in our country!  In two years make sure you clear your calendar to come to view cutting edge design.  

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