House of the future

Good luck to the University Solar Decathlon team in Washington, D.C.

What does the house of the future look like? It could be the dark, squat, angular, 500-square-foot ICON Solar House designed by the University of Minnesota Solar Decathlon team. Twenty university teams from four countries are currently competing in Washington, D.C., for what amounts to a sustainable home championship. The University teamâÄôs dwelling, created by 150 students over two years, is awaiting final judgments Friday, with team California in the suspected lead. While comfort and looks matter, efficiency is key. So doing well on ThursdayâÄôs âÄúnet meterâÄù ratings âÄî the total amount of energy consumed or produced during the competition âÄî is essential. The U.S. Department of Energy sponsors the competition and granted the UniversityâÄôs team $100,000 to develop an attractive and self-sustaining model home in January 2008. Shona Mosites of the UniversityâÄôs Solar Decathlon team said the goal of the project was to âÄúmarry the ideas of the traditional home with environmental consciousness.âÄù When asked how much the project cost, Rose Lin, an officer of the UâÄôs Solar Decathlon team, said, âÄúOne million dollars âĦ we donâÄôt know; the president of the University knows.âÄù The University matched the DOE grant and private donors have contributed, but substantial debt remains. Despite recent D.C. rains, Mosites maintained optimism that the home will be self-sustaining and pay itself off. âÄúWeâÄôre not paying for energy right now âĦ weâÄôre probably saving $500 a year.âÄù Thank you to the University Solar Decathlon team for your leadership and ingenuity. Best of luck to you, and to our future, Friday.