Originally founded by the United States Department of Energy, the solar decathlon competition encourages architecture, design, and engineering students to gather up their wit and resources to build a small, transportable solar-powered home using the most current technology available.
Albeit competitive, the event is always a friendly affair that involves a great deal of coordination, cooperation, and good cheer.
It’s also an incredible experience for the students who participate. They must plan and follow through with their designs, communicate with the public, raise funds, and often work clear through the night – night after night.
So it’s no small thing to say that Israel shone. Their home, called All [e] Land, took second place in the architecture category and it’s easy to see why. Their innovative design is based on pre-industrial ingenuity without the benefit of “smart systems” other than their own.
And yet Mediterranean homes stayed cool throughout summer, a breeze always facilitated with thoughtful passive design, throughout the last 3,500 years. The team from Israel has married ancient wisdom with technology, and why wouldn’t they? The Holy Land is now the Start up Nation – a land of holy green start ups.
There’s another twist to this great project: agriculture. Drive through Israel and then drive through neighboring Egypt and the difference in their agricultural accomplishments is frankly shocking.
This small, controversial and even misunderstood country is smarter about water management than pretty much anywhere else in the world, and a great deal of the country’s early identity was associated with farming dry, unforgiving land.
But team Israel doesn’t really need to dig up the Negev for tomatoes, though, because they’ve brought the farm closer to home.
A wall of vegetation lines the courtyard, providing food, good air quality and something nicer to look at than a long brick wall. Plus it provides a habitat for birds, bees and butterflies, and other small city dwelling creatures.
It’s a fantastic design, and the team represented a side of Israel rarely seen in international media: one team had struggled to complete their project on time, while the Israelis were done well within the allotted time.
Instead of sitting pretty with their hummus ice cream, these kids helped their competitor complete their house in time for the judges so they wouldn’t lose points.
Team UOW Australia won the overall competition with Illawarra Flame house.