University of Minnesota Wins the Lighting Design Contest at the DOE Solar Decathlon

October 15, 2009

Photo of the University of Minnesota's Solar Decathlon home, a one-story red house with a sharply peaked black roof and a narrow deck.

The University of Minnesota today grabbed first place in the Lighting Design contest at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon. The University of Minnesota won over the lighting designers and industry experts that made up the panel of jurors with its solar home's aesthetically pleasing lighting design, which creatively used natural and artificial light to meet the needs of the user while maintaining high efficiency.

Currently, twenty university-led teams from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Spain are competing in the fourth DOE Solar Decathlon to design, build, and operate houses powered by the sun. The event, held on the National Mall, concludes tomorrow when an overall winner will be announced at 8:00 a.m. in the Solar Village.

Teams are competing in ten contests that evaluate several aspects of a home's appearance, such as architecture, market viability, and comfort, and that measure the way it optimizes efficiency and provides energy for space heating and cooling, hot water, home entertainment, lighting, and appliances. Today's contest is the fourth out of ten contests that make up the international competition.

"The array of LED lighting in the home and its control system is intuitive and easy to operate," Lighting Juror Ron Kurtz said. "The team's use of adjustable shading panels provides excellent natural day lighting, with no difference in sunlight entry into the home, from summer to winter."

The University of Minnesota finished with 72 points, followed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with 70.50 points, and Team Germany and Penn State tied for third place with 69.75 points. As of 1 PM EDT, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign leads in the overall standings with 629.19 points, followed by Team California (627.40 points), and Team Ontario/BC (620.85 points).

For the Lighting Design contest, teams earned points based on a number of subjective criteria, including electric lighting quality, natural daylight quality, ease of operation, energy efficiency, and building integration. Contest officials evaluated aesthetic factors such as light distribution within the architectural spaces, as well as human factors such as user-friendliness and illumination levels needed for daily tasks. Jurors also considered whether the lighting system would provide a pleasing atmosphere for the activities of life throughout the four seasons. Teams had the potential to earn up to 75 points.

The ten contests that make up the Solar Decathlon measure many aspects of a home's performance and appearance. A perfect total score for all ten contests in the Solar Decathlon is 1,000 points. Five of them—Architecture, Communications, Engineering, Lighting Design, and Market Viability—are scored subjectively. Others, including Appliances, Comfort Zone, Home Entertainment, Hot Water, and Net Metering, accumulate points daily and will not be tallied up until the end of the competition.

The overall winner of the 2009 Solar Decathlon will be announced at the awards ceremony tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. on the National Mall in the solar village. Results from the cumulative five contests, worth a total of 550 points, as well as the results from the Engineering contest, will be announced at the ceremony.

Held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is open to the public through Sunday, October 18. The houses are open for tours weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

For full event information, current standings, high-resolution photos and videos, an event schedule, and daily results, visit the Solar Decathlon Web site.