Our time at the Solar Decathlon was an eye opening experience. Arriving in Washington, the sky was slightly overcast, which is actually the optimal working condition for solar panels as they produce the most energy when not overheated. On our walk to Solar Village from the public transit we passed through the national mall and were impressed to see iconic stone monuments peeking at us through the green landscape of the park; the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the White House and not least the newly minted Martin Luther King Junior Memorial. The scenery turned our discussion toward the unique place in history we are as a nation; of the obstacles we’re collectively overcome and the ones we still face. Our group was proud to be part of an effort to overcome what may be the greatest challenge of our generation – the looming environmental crisis.
We eventually arrived at the Solar Village at 8:30 on Saturday morning in time for the morning meetings. After words, we spent time going through the Solar Village. Besides New Schools own Empowerhouse, the homes were presented by Appalachian State, Maryland, Middlebury and New Zealand seemed to stand out the most. All of these houses had designs that impressed me. I felt that the use of Tree bark and other natural surfaces gave the Appalachian State house a great feel that represented where the house was designed and built. The architectural lay out of the New Zealand house was very sweeping and please to see. The houses designed by Middlebury and Maryland impressed me the most. The use of architectural design, space, engineering and most importantly, natural resources (such as water in the Maryland Watershed house) were ingenious. When touring each house guides were entertaining and informative.
There were generally about four guides in each house who would answer questions and elaborate on various aspects of the design and construction. Lines were typically long and thirty minutes was a typical wait time to get through one house. Our only regret was that we didn’t get to see more houses.
Visiting Deanwood we found a community preparing for the houses to arrive. It was clear they were excited as they were willing to answer the questions of all visitors to the site. We saw the site for the house, and visited the community garden. It was clear that this house would not only be of benefit for the eventual owners but for the entire community.
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Milano School for International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School