The challenge—as we enter the new millennium—is climate change. How do we rebuild twentieth-century buildings and infrastructure to be more energy efficient and sustainable, and how do we redesign our future? Specific to the Solar Decathlon, how do you design a home that is self-sufficient? A house that is healthy to live in and produces its own clean power? In 2000, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) challenged university schools of architecture and engineering to design and build solar-powered houses that were energy efficient, functional and appealing to the public. In 2002, after two years of design work, 14 pioneering collegiate teams showed up on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to showcase their houses and to prove their potential. The first Solar Decathlon 2002 was a stunning success. Starting with the 2005 competition, the Solar Decathlon was opened to international universities and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid was the first European team to enter. Their house was called “Magic Box,” and all of Europe seemed to have adopted the team. Advance construction of the home in Madrid was widely covered by the media, including more than 40 newspaper stories, 4 hours of radio interviews, and 15 television appearances. The house was the most visited exhibit at the Real Estate Fair of Madrid in May 2005. It was also the centerpiece of a course for 20 students from universities throughout Europe during that summer. Based on the success of the Magic Box and two other entries from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in 2007 and 2009, the Universidad petitioned the DOE to allow it to adopt the rules and hold a Solar Decathlon in Europe. Madrid, Spain, was chosen as the site, and the rest is history. Two spectacular Solar Decathlon Europe competitions were held in Madrid in 2010 and 2012. Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has directly affected the lives of nearly 17,000 collegiate participants on 112 collegiate teams. On top of that, at the time of this writing, 62 teams from 33 different countries— nearly 9,500 students—are participating in three different Solar Decathlon competitions around the world: Solar Decathlon Europe 2014, Solar Decathlon China 2013 and the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. With this kind of brain power at work, our future looks bright. 8
Tonelli, C., Bellingeri, G., Franciosini, L., Salerno, G., Passeri, A., Converso, S., et al. (2012). MED IN ITALY prototipo di costruzione ad alta efficienza energetica per il Solar Decathlon 2012 a Madrid.