Friday, September 30, 2011

Solar Decathlon in Washington DC seems to be largest ever

This year the Energy Department’s Solar Decathlon (link) is held West Potomac Park on the Tidal Basin, between the Jefferson Memorial and the FDR Memorial (the MLK Memorial is farther away, toward the other end of the Basin).  This was considerably less convenient for visitors than having it right on the Mall, next to the Metro. 
There was a Shuttle at the Smithsonian Station, but the first small bus filled up. A second much larger bus showed up in five minutes, and it took about fifteen minutes to get there, weaving around L’Enfant Plaza.  Returning, the crowd was overwhelming, as there was confusion as to the expectation that everyone leave at 2 PM.  I walked  (an “Adventuring mini-hike”) to Foggy Bottom, past FDR and MLK and the Lincoln Memorial, about two miles, forty minutes.

There were long lines at many of the houses.  I visited the Ohio State exhibit first.  Small, it had many explanatory signs, including a curious lifestyle placard talking about a house that a single person buys, and then changes as he (or she) gets married and has a kid.  (No mention of the same-sex marriage and gay adoption debate, but it seems to invite the question.)

The New York house had the longest line, but I did visit Massachusetts, then Indiana (Purdue) – the largest house, which was available for sale and contract build now, and then Florida, and finally Tidewater Virginia.  A few houses had bizarre exteriors, including Belgium, New Zealand, southern California, and New Jersey.

There was a lot attention to appliances, especially washing machines, and to passive heating and air conditioning and dehumidifying systems, and to window placement.  Are these homes sturdy enough to stand up to tornadoes and hurricanes, or built away from flood risks? What about steel construction, promoted by an Arkansas builder as protection from tornadoes?
 I think it runs through Sunday, Oct. 2, slightly longer hours on the weekend. 

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