Solar Decathlon home image

Postcards From The Greenest Neighborhood on Earth

Like some mythical fairy village, the greenest neighborhood on Earth is only visible for a short time each year. Rising from the humid bottomlands of Washington DC’s Tidal Basin, it’s a sort of techno-utopian rebuke to the staid memorials that dot the city. Every one of its 19 homes embodies the net-zero ethos, which dictates that a building produce as much or more energy as it consumes.
Solar Decathlon home image
These are the homes of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, photographed with Instagram. Every one of them is a sort of off-the-grid space ship capable of eliminating carbon emissions or surviving the collapse of the power grid, depending on your view of the principle challenges of the 21st century.
Solar Decathlon image of home net zero solar passive house
Some homes in the Decathlon felt a little like they’d been designed to appeal to as broad a market as possible. Nothing wrong with that — homes are investments, after all.

With its deeply shaded porch, protruding sunroom and shaded breezeway, Tidewater Virginia struck a nice balance between something you’d see in a KB Homes catalogue and the kind of high-tech prefab that might grace the pages of a design magazine like Dwell.

I’ve written up the Living Light house elsewhere, and it gets points for being ultra high-tech. It’s so energy efficient, and its solar panels so productive, that the house has enough spare juice to charge up your electric vehicle. All that technology comes with a price, however: $400,000 and up.
Solar Decathlon image for home
University of Maryland’s effort felt cozy, and no surprise — rather than combining two trailers into a single unit, as other teams had done, they broke theirs into separate homes connected by an overhang. The result is units you can see straight through.

An unconventional exterior and a roomy breezeway made this home feel like one of the roomiest on the lot.

Some homes in the Decathlon felt a little like they’d been designed to appeal to as broad a market as possible. Nothing wrong with that — homes are investments, after all.

With its deeply shaded porch, protruding sunroom and shaded breezeway, Tidewater Virginia struck a nice balance between something you’d see in a KB Homes catalogue and the kind of high-tech prefab that might grace the pages of a design magazine like Dwell.

Mims is a contributor to Good, Technology Review and The Huffington Post, and is a former editor at Scientific American and Grist.org. He tweets @mims.

Written by greenlivingguy

The Green Living Guy, Seth Leitman is a green living expert, celebrity and Editor of the McGraw-Hill, TAB Green Guru Guides. Seth is also an Author, Radio Host, Reporter, Writer and a Environmental Consultant on green living. The Green Living Guy writes about green living, green lighting, the green guru guides and more. Seth's books range from: # Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Bob Brant and Seth Leitman (2nd and 3rd editions) # Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman # Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel # Green Lighting by Seth Leitman, Brian Clark Howard and Bill Brinsky # Solar Power For Your Home by David Findley # Renewable Energies For Your Home by Russel Gehrke # Do-it-Yourself Home Energy Audits by David Findley # Build Your Own Small Wind Power System by Brian Clark Howard and Kevin Shea # and more green living books to follow.