Solar Decathlon Europe is an international competition among universities which promotes research in the development of efficient houses. The objective of the participating teams is to design and build houses that consume as few natural resources as possible and produce minimum waste products during their life cycle. Particular emphasis is put on reducing energy consumption and on obtaining all the necessary energy from the sun.
During the final phase of the competition, teams shall assemble their houses in Madrid, in a place open to the public called Villa Solar, where all of them can be visited. They will be competing in ten contests (that is why it is called ‘decathlon’) that will decide which one is the winner of that edition. In the competition that took place in September 2012, were 18 proposals from 12 different countries, 8 of which will come from Europe (Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and Romania) and four more from China, Japan, Brazil and Egypt.
All of these teams are supported by one or more universities and have the economic and technical support from institutions and companies. The main figures during the whole process, from the design to the last phase of the competition in Madrid are the students, known as ‘Decathletes’, who are guided by a professor, the ‘Faculty Advisor’.
The event has a twofold purpose: educative and scientific. The Decathletes learn how to work in multidisciplinary teams and how to face the challenges of the future of building by developing innovative solutions. On the one hand, the public can see and becomes aware of the real possibilities of reducing the environmental impact and at the same time keeping the comfort and quality of the design in their homes. On the other hand, professionals have access to techniques and processes that they can study and use. In addition, volunteers, who are essential for the development of the SDE, have the opportunity to share experiences with the teams and move ahead in their careers thanks to their work during the competition.
Moreover, universities, companies and public institutions have access to a new way of collaborating, for example, by trying out scientific projects in real conditions to launch them later onto the market or by improving and using existing products in a creative way.
The Solar Decathlon Family
The Solar Decathlon Europe has its origin in the American competition US DOE Solar Decathlon. The SDEurope was born out of a bilateral agreement between the American and the Spanish governments, after the participation of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in previous editions held in Washington DC. The first competition outside the United States, the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010, took place in Madrid in June 2010.
A similar agreement has recently resulted in the Solar Decathlon China. The European Edition is held in even years and the American competition in odd years; from its first edition in 2013, SD China will take place with some months of difference from the US DOE Solar Decathlon. The three competitions have similar principles and objectives, but they are independently organized and have some differences regarding regulations and contests, adapting in this way to their own circumstances and contexts.
The main institution boosting the Solar Decathlon Europe is the Spanish Ministry of Public Works, through the Secretary of State for Housing and Urban Development and with the collaboration of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, the European Union and the U.S. Department of Energy. The SDEurope competition is also supported by Madrid City Council and the IDAE (Institute for Diversification and Saving of Energy). Our sponsors are Saint Gobain Group, as Main Sponsor, and the companies Schneider Electric, Rockwool, Kömmerling and FCC.
Photo: Houses assembly in Madrid, june 2010
Photographer: Javier Alonso Huerta