For the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure to document and talk to the students of Purdue University who are participating in this year’s Solar Decathalon. The Solar Decathalon is an international competition held every year in Washington, D.C. by the Department of Energy, that “challenges teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.” Purdue finished in an outstanding second place, with University of Maryland beating them by only 20 points.
Purdue had high scores in all categories including affordability, comfort zone, hot water, energy balance, and market appeal, but trailed in architecture. While the judges thought it was lacking in some qualities, the visitors and tourists did not. The house received an incredible amount of positive feedback. To many, it was their favorite house, due to the fact that it looked like an actual midwestern rancher and not “alien or space ship like” as the other houses in the competition were called. And what was even better about the house was that everything used could be purchased at a Home Depot or Loewes, making “becoming green” easy and quite affordable for the average family.
But what really struck me the most was their innovative feature known as “the biowall”. The biowall is a home air filtration system that utilizes plants placed in a vertical wall, which remove harmful chemicals that can accumulate in homes that are tightly sealed like the INhome. Air from the home is drawn through the plant wall where the chemicals are removed by the plants and used as a food source. “The biowall improves the air quality in the home, saves energy, and provides a calming ambiance by bringing nature inside the home.”
Check out the team’s INhome website for more information about their stunning and green house as well as the Solar Decathalon’s site for rankings and images from the competition!