10 incredible houses from the 2013 Solar Decathlon

College students are competing to design and build the most energy-efficient homes possible

Topics: sustainable architecture, solar panels, energy efficiency, sustainable housing, green design, ,

The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon kicks off today in Irvine, Calif. The intensive competition pits teams of college students against one another to design and build solar-powered houses that are energy efficient, affordable and attractive enough that people will actually want to live in them.

Over the next 10 days, the teams’ homes will be judged from a list of stringent criteria while the members live inside, demonstrating their designs’ real-world capabilities: everything from performing common household tasks like laundry to hosting dinner parties and a movie night for their neighbors.

Check out some of this year’s most innovative entries:

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    Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    Construction at the Solar Decathlon village

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico took inspiration from the desert for their house, SHADE, which features screens designed to mimic the cooling function of saguaro cactus needles and rainwater collection tanks.

    ASUNMteam/Twitter

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    Team Alberta: University of Calgary's Borealis house is an updated version of a mobile home, designed for workers in remote resource industries.

    TeamAlbertaSD/Twitter

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    Czech Technical University designed the almost entirely wooden AIR house with the needs of empty-nesters in mind.

    Solar_Decathlon/Twitter

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    Team Capitol DC, consisting of The Catholic University of America, George Washington University and American University, built HARVEST HOME for returning army veterans. Made of reclaimed and recycled materials, it includes biomedical systems and other features to help ease their transition back into civilian life.

    TeamCapitolDC/Twitter

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    Phoenix House, from the University of Louisville, Ball State University and the University of Kentucky is self-sustaining and quickly assembled, and is intended for use as permanent disaster relief housing.

    thephoenixhouse/Instagram

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    There's grass growing on the roof of Middlebury College's InSite house, while its solar panels cover a shaded walking path.

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    Missouri University of Science and Technology's Chameleon House adapts to its environment and the needs of its occupants.

    SandTSolarHouse/Twitter

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    The Delta T-90 house from Norwich University is built to stand up to northern Vermont's cold, snowy days and lower energy costs for low to medium income families.

    U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    ECHO, from Team Ontario (Queen's University, Carleton University and Algonquin College) manages to create more energy than it uses.

    ontarioSD/Twitter

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    ontarioSD/Twitter

    Solar Decathlon 2013

    The two separate modules that make up DALE, from Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology, can be split apart via a rail system for instant outdoor living space.

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Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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