What do you picture when you think about your first home? A white picket fence? A 5 bedroom, two-story house? A two or three car garage? What about solar panels… do you imagine those on the first house you buy?
You might not. Maybe you think solar panels are too expensive, unsightly, or even unneeded.
Enter the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon – a yearly program that challenges collegiate teams to design a solar powered home that combats that type of thinking. And the verdict is in: it’s time for all of us to #thinkfwd about energy efficiency (Shameless twitter plug? Don’t mind if I do!)
The team that best embodied forward thinking? Depends who you ask. At the close of the weeklong competition University of Maryland won the overall, Appalachian State University won the People’s Choice award, and Middlebury College came in the front for the Market Appeal contest.
My choice: the SCI-Arc/Caltech house named CHIP, which stands for Compact Hyper Insulated Prototype…also a fancy way to say that the house looked like a marshmallow. An AWESOME, innovative marshmallow that increases the r-value of the house, meaning that less energy can be used to heat and cool.
But more than that, CHIP is a statement about the way we live. The California team wanted to show us that bigger doesn’t always mean better. In “Who Turned Out the Lights?” Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson ask if it is the moment for the “smaller is beautiful” American home. If CHIP is any indication, yes it is.
Americans live big – we make up about 5 percent of the population, but we consume nearly 22 PERCENT of the world’s energy. Do we really need all of that? Maybe with smart and innovative design combined with solar use, we don’t. And it’s CHIP that helped me get to that statement. It’s a house that adds to the conversation, and that’s what’s most important…even if it looks like an amorphous dessert.