Austrian students from the Vienna University of Technology edged out the University of Nevada Las Vegas and 17 other collegiate teams Saturday in Irvine to win the 2013 Solar Decathlon, the closest finish to the sustainable house design competition since it started 11 years ago.
Like 100-meter sprinters separated by hundredths of a second, Team Austria beat UNLV by 4.35 points out of a possible 1,000. Czech Technical University placed third, just 2.43 points behind UNLV.
Early leader Stanford dropped to fifth place, USC finished 10th, and a combined team from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Caltech ended 14th.
As noted in earlier articles on Team Austria's thesis of wood as a sustainable building material and its use of exterior screens and curtains to create layers of shade and privacy, the Vienna-built design is an indoor-outdoor beauty that seems tailor-made for Santa Monica or the Hollywood Hills.
The UNLV house, which we featured when it won the market appeal contest of the decathlon, is a pragmatic vision of desert modern, partially wrapped in rusted steel screens with the pixilated pattern of a mesquite tree. Among the furnishings: a dining table that students built with metal and wood from a Bureau of Land Management scrap yard.
The Czech team, which wrapped their house in a striking yet simple shade canopy of bare wood framing, were buoyed by their win in architecture judging as well as in results from the last of 10 categories, engineering. Winners in that contest were announced first Saturday morning: Team Ontario, consisting of students from Queen’s University, Carleton University and Algonquin College in Canada, finished first. The Czechs placed second. Austria, UNLV and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte tied for third.
This is the first year the Solar Decathlon has been held away from the National Mall in Washington. Past winners have been the University of Colorado (2002 and 2005), Technische Universität Darmstadt of Germany (2007 and 2009), and the University of Maryland (2011).
All 19 houses will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sunday at the Orange County Great Park. Directions:http://www.solardecathlon.gov/directions_transportation.html
Nakano writes for the Los Angeles Times.