Calling all Decathletes…

Seriously, how many decathletes really follow this blog?  I would guess they are far too busy to care what we have to say.  If you’re not a decathlete, don’t fret.  This is really for you…


It’s not time for the Olympics yet, but it is almost time for the 2009 Solar Decathlon to take place on the National Mall in D.C.  Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, this will be the fourth event in which universities from all over the US, as well as a few from abroad, compete against one another to see who has developed the most superb example of sustainable architecture.  The field of 20 teams this year consists of a variety of public and private universities, and even a few that have joined forces with others to form what I’m calling “superteams” – Team Alberta, Team Boston, Team California, Team Germany, Team Missouri, Team Ontario/BC, and Team Spain.  Unfortunately, you may notice the absence of a Team Arizona.  Considering the plethora of shiny hot rays we have here, Arizona should be perennial competitor in this sun-centric event.

Don’t despair.  For the first time ever, Arizona will be represented in the competition.  Led by one of my former professors, Larry Medlin, the University of Arizona has developed what they call the Solar Energy Efficient Dwelling or SEED[pod].  This interesting dwelling incorporates the obvious and expected solar energy and solar hot water heating elements, but also has a few very unique tricks up its sleeves that help to control light, ventilation, and insulation.  If you know what a trombe wall is, I challenge you to show me one that is as unique as the one pictured below.  Made from recycled plastic, the system provides thermal storage, controls the intensity of light, and still allows for ventilation.  I can’t wait to see this in action.


Quite possibly one of the most unique features of the house, however, just happens to be the adjacent greenhouse.  You might be mumbling to yourself “What’s so innovative about a greenhouse?. I’ve been growing food in mine for years”.  That may be true, but does your greenhouse filter your air and water, provide increased O2 for your home, regulate your humidity, or provide thermal storage for heating and cooling your house?  I didn’t think so.  While past decathlon entrants have incorporated graywater systems, thermal storage systems and gardens, the SEED[pod]’s greenhouse is very unique.  Unfortunately, a unique greenhouse alone doesn’t automatically guarantee them the grand prize.  As the name of the event suggestions, the entrants will be judged in 10 categories – Architecture, Market Viability, Engineering, Lighting Design, Communications, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment, and Net Metering.  It will take innovation and performance in all of these categories before someone walks out with a crown.


The SEED[pod] left Tucson this weekend to make it’s way to D.C. in time for setup and judging, which will take place October 8th-16th.  After a couple weeks of public viewing, the house will then be disassembled and trucked back to Phoenix, where it will be on display at the enormous Greenbuild event being held downtown November 11th-13th.  I will certainly enjoy bragging about my alma mater if they take home the gold, but I am probably more excited just to finally see an Arizona entrant in the competition.  They do represent our great State, so I encourage all of you to lend your support and encouragement.  If you’re at your desk right now, I would like you to yell “Go Cats!” as loud as you can.  One of two things will likely happen.  You will either be jumped by a gaggle of Sun Devil alumni scrambling over cubicle walls, or you will be carted off to the local psych ward.  Either way, you will feel good knowing that you’re doing your part to support your local team, your local University, and the evolution of sustainable design.

To learn more about the Solar Decathlon, go to

To follow UA’s Solar Decathlon Team, go to

~ by Nathan Morey on September 28, 2009.

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