In 2002, as we were preparing for the first Solar Decathlon, Richard King, the director of the competition from the outset, opined that the first one would be the most interesting. The whole concept was new, sort of like a solar Wild West and the variety would be at its peak. The reason, of course, is that contestants study the top-placing entries and emulate them for the next event. And isn't this how styles are born?
But is this a bad thing or good? For instance, plantings were relatively rare in the first two Solar Decathlons and, as a result, drew people in. This week, greenery is ubiquitous throughout the 20-home community that's sprung up for its 15 days of fame on the National Mall. That's good.
Dramatic interior lighting that makes for a beautiful nightscape is good too. And clever little gimmicks such as the home that incorporated a 1950s Airstream in 2005 are fading away, making the solar village much more consistent this year. Some would argue that is also good; some would not.
Now that the competition is to be held every other year, students and faculty advisers jump straight into their next design schema as soon as they get back on campus, balancing pressing deadlines, tight budgets, and a desire to win attention even if it means incorporating the stand-apart ideas of others.
Homogeneity? We'll have to wait and see. But it sure sounds like these students will be better prepared for the world into which they will soon be graduating.
What do you think?