Illinois' Elementhouse takes ninth place in Solar Decathlon

ECE News

ECE Staff Writer

Story Highlights

  • More than 100 Illinois students participated in the Elementhouse project.
  • Illinois placed first in the Market Viability and Comfort Zone contests.
  • Teams worked more than two years designing, constructing, and testing their homes to compete in the Solar Decathlon.

The elementhouse on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
The elementhouse on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Illinois' "Elementhouse" placed ninth overall (out of 20 entries) in the US Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition. The eight-day event culminated with an awards ceremony on Friday, October 19, on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

First place in the international competition went to Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany), with second and third place honors going to the University of Maryland and Santa Clara University (Calif.) respectively.

ECE Associate Professor Patrick Chapman served as a student advisor for much of the project that began in early 2006. ECE graduate student Trishan Esram was the electrical engineering team leader. More than 100 Illinois students participated in the project.

"Since we were the only team that won two of the ten individual contests, I thought we might place higher overall," explained Ty Newell, an emeritus professor in mechanical science and engineering and one of the faculty advisors for the Illinois team. "We were very pleased to win the Market Viability contest, which reflects the practical aspects of our design. Winning the Comfort Zone contest really demonstrated that all of the individual comfort-related principles we chose for our system were considered the best."

The individual contests that make up the Solar Decathlon measure many aspects of a home's performance and appearance. A perfect total score for all ten contests in the Solar Decathlon is 1,200 points. Of the ten contests, Communications, as well as Lighting, Comfort Zone, Appliances, Hot Water, Energy Balance, and Getting Around are each worth up to 100 points. The Architecture contest is worth up to 200 points, followed by Engineering and Market Viability, which are each worth up to 150 points and are scored subjectively.

The Solar Decathlon's homes are zero-energy, yield zero carbon, and include the latest high-tech solutions and money-saving benefits to consumers, without sacrificing comfort, convenience, and aesthetics. Each house must also produce enough "extra" energy to power an electric vehicle. Many of the solar power and building technologies showcased on the National Mall are currently available for purchase and use. Teams have worked for more than two years designing, building and testing their homes--the Solar Decathlon is the culmination of that work.

The Solar Decathlon complements President Bush's Solar America Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015. The US Department of Energy is sponsoring this year's Solar Decathlon, along with its National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the American Institute of Architects; the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers; the National Association of Homebuilders; the US Green Building Council; and private-sector sponsors BP and Sprint.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy.


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