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Solar Decathlon prize goes to Germany's TU Darmstadt

The German technical university unseats the University of Colorado at Boulder in a competition that showcased solar home designs.

The Solar Decathlon solar home competition finished up on Saturday with Germany's Technische Universitat Darmstadt taking top honors.

For about 8 days, students from 20 universities showed off their solar-powered houses to judges, government officials, and the general public on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Darmstadt's top placing was helped by top score in the Architecture contest. Solar Decathlon/U.S. Department of Energy.

Contestants had to design, finance and build their houses and then transport them to the Mall, where they were judged on 10 factors, including the energy efficiency, architecture and indoor comfort.

For previous coverage of the Solar Decathlon, see here for photos and see here for videos and description of the technologies and designs on display.

TU Darmstadt unseated the winner of the last two competitions, the University of Colorado at Boulder (click here for video interview).

Second place went to the University of Maryland and third place went to first-time entrant Santa Clara University (click here for video).

Darmstadt won the Architecture, Lighting, and Engineering contests during the Decathlon. Judges said it was the best at integratiung photovoltaics into the building: for the competition, it created louvers on the outside of the building with solar cells on them.

Solar cells integrated into louvers. Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks

The designers focused on efficiency of energy and space, using the most cutting-edge materials, such as air-tight insulation, according to Darmstadt architecture student Joerg Thoene, whom I spoke to at the event. (Unfortunately, the video of the interview won't be available.)

He said his university hopes to bring the building back to Germany as part of a plan to build a solar-powered campus.

The house allows for extensive use of daylighting--letting natural light in--and has clever indoor designs. There are cavities in the floor where both a couch and bed can be hidden.

Universities from Canada, Puerto Rico and Spain also participated in the contest.