Solar Decathlon 2015

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a competition that promotes the application of solar technologies in buildings. The first DOE Solar Decathlon was held in 2002 and has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013. In February 2014 universities across the nation were selected through a competitive process to compete in the next competition that will take place in October of 2015 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

During the week-long competition the fourteen homes designed and built by student teams will be open to the public free of charge; giving visitors the opportunity to tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money. During the course of the week each team earns points through 10 contests, either juried or measured, designed to gauge the houses’ performance, livability, and affordability.

Austin to Irvine

Juried Contests


An attractive, high-performance home that integrates solar and energy-efficient technology seamlessly into the design will be evaluated by three main factors: architectural elements, holistic design, and inspiration.

Market Appeal.

Each home must be built for a particular target market and demonstrate the potential to keep costs affordable within that market. Evaluation is based on the the suitability of the home for everyday living, ease of construction, and whether the homes offers a good value within the target market.


Checks the particular systems that are integrated within the home evaluated on the functionality, efficiency, innovation, and reliability.


The technical aspects of each house, as well as a team’s experiences, must be communicated to a wide audience through websites and the exhibition of at the final competition. Points are awarded based on the success in delivering clear and consistent messages and images on the team’s website, communications plan, and student-led house tours.


A maximum of 100 points are awarded for achieving a target construction cost of $250,000 or less and zero points are awarded to homes with estimated costs more than $600,000.

Measured Contests

Comfort Zone.

Homes must maintain steady, uniform indoor environmental conditions. Full points are awarded for maintaining narrow temperature and relative humidity ranges inside the houses.


Designed to mimic the appliance use and amenity in the average U.S. home while using less energy. Points are earned for refrigerating and freezing food, washing and drying laundry, and running the dishwasher.

Home Life.

Homes powered solely by the sun can deliver more than just basic household functionality, they can also provide a comfortable setting with power for the electronics, appliances, and modern conveniences that we love. This contest gauges if the house can accommodate the pleasures of living.


Simulates most of the transportation requirements that would take place for a household. All points are earned for driving at least 25 miles within 120 minutes.

Energy Balance.

The sun can supply the energy necessary for all the daily energy demands of a small household. Each home is equipped with Net metering, a utility meter that measures the energy a house produces and consumes over the course of the competition. Full points are awarding for producing at least as much energy as the home needs.


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