Free for dinner in Washington? Nineteen groups of architecture students will be serving meals next week at houses they have built in West Potomac Park, adjacent to the National Mall, as part of the Department of Energy’s biennial Solar Decathlon, a kind of “America’s Got Talent” for green architecture. The ambience at their dinner parties is one of 10 areas the students will be rated on. Others include market appeal, design, adequacy of hot water and affordability (a category added after a $2 million house from Germany won the 2009 competition).
Fifteen of the teams are from the United States, including one from three schools in the New York area — Parsons the New School for Design, the Stevens Institute of Technology, and the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy, also at the New School. Designed by students with the help of Professors Laura Briggs and David Lewis at Parsons (who is also a principal in the Manhattan architecture firm Lewis Tsurumaki & Lewis), as well as many other faculty members at the schools, the so-called Empowerhouse, pictured, will become part of a duplex in the low-income Deanwood section of Washington, under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity.
The houses will be open Friday through Oct. 2. Visitors can expect long lines, given the compactness of the houses and the intense interest among advocates of energy conservation. In 2009, there were more than 300,000 visitors over 10 days, said Richard King, director of the event. Because the German team didn’t enter this year, he added, “it’s a wide-open competition.” Information:solardecathlon.gov
By FRED A. BERNSTEIN