The University of Colorado has again won the first-place trophy in the international Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, D.C., it was announced today.
CU was one of 18 universities competing in the Department of Energy-sponsored event, which began Oct. 7 and continues through Sunday on the National Mall, the pedestrian way connecting the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.
Cornell University placed second and California Polytechnic State University finished third.
The international contest challenged students to design, build and operate the most attractive, efficient and comfortable solar home, while educating the public about alternative energy technologies. An estimated 100,000 people will tour the homes in the "Solar Village" during the 10-day event.
CU also took the first-place trophy in the inaugural Solar Decathlon in 2002, a competition involving 14 universities. This year's contest differed markedly from the 2002 event because it rained or was cloudy for the entire week. As a result, the solar panels were able to collect only a small fraction of the energy that would be collected on a good day in Colorado, according to project manager Jeff Lyng, a CU graduate student in civil engineering.
"It's kind of surreal," Lyng said after the results were announced. "We have a great team, and we picked a strategy on Monday that worked. We had a suspicion as early as yesterday that we would have enough points to win, but there was no real guarantee that we would be able to keep our lead."
The project was a two-year effort involving students from the College of Architecture and Planning and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, with Professors Julee Herdt of architecture and Michael Brandemuehl of engineering serving as faculty advisers.
Teams scored points in 10 different categories, ranging from architectural design to the home's ability to maintain a comfortable temperature. The CU team took first place in documentation, communication and "getting around" in an electric car powered by the home's solar collectors. The team decided to forego earning points in the energy balance category as part of its strategy to accumulate the most points overall in light of the week's poor weather conditions.
Judges in the communication contest praised the CU team for explaining its vision and use of natural building materials using food metaphors and displaying samples of soy, wheat, corn and other agricultural products so the public could understand the team's slogan: "a house you can sink your teeth into."