It’s time for the Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 and this year’s entrants have certainly upped the ante for anyone already building to compete next year. A rotating solar house? A cork and timber home? Solar-powered modular wall systems? If you’ve thought of it, it’s probably at this year’s event.

Started in the United States by the U.S. Department of Energy in 1999, expanded into Europe in 2007 as a complementary competition, and now coming to China in 2013, the Solar Decathlon aims to challenge collegiate teams to design and build energy and cost efficient solar powered homes. This year’s event is taking place in Madrid’s Casa de Campo park and has 19 homes from 12 different countries throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. Each team of “Decathletes” and advisors is given a subsidy of $65,000 provided by private companies and the Spanish government for the competition.

Of the 19 entries, one would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. The entry from Portugal’s Universidade do Porto uses the energy-equivalent of just six lightbulbs to rotate up to 180 degrees to follow the sun and regulate interior temperatures, producing 2.5 times more energy than it uses. Barcelona’s team (e)co from Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura del Vallès has built a house which mimics a hermit crab, and an exterior greenhouse/shading device and a biodegradable interior. And Team Brazil’s Ekó House takes its design cues from the country’s Tupi-Guarani indian heritage, integrating an interior wetlands for grey water treatment, a series of exterior verandas to control temperatures, and dry composting toilets to minimize waste.

Winners of the Solar Decathlon Europe are decided on by a panel of jurors judging teams in 10 different contests throughout the 10 days of competition. Points are awarded based on how well the teams do in each of the following categories:

  • Architecture
  • Engineering and Construction
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Electrical Energy Balance
  • Comfort Conditions
  • Functioning of the house
  • Communication and Raising Social Awareness
  • Industrialization and Market Viability
  • Innovation
  • Sustainability

The winner will be announced on September 30th and if you happen to be in Madrid during the next two weeks, admission to the Villa Solar is free and open to the public.


Image Credit: SDEurope