Appalachian State University’s Team, Réciprocité, came in ninth out of the twenty international collegiate teams competing in this year’s European Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. Sponsored by the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), an EESI Associate, Appalachian State University was one of only two American schools participating in the competition. The other American entry, Techstyle Haus, brought together the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and the University of Applied Sciences (in Erfurt, Germany) and came in fourteenth.

Each team’s house was scored out of 1,000 possible points based on how well it performed in 10 categories, including architecture, energy efficiency, comfort conditions, sustainability, engineering, communication/social awareness, and electrical/energy balance (for which Team Réciprocité earned first place).

Appalachian State’s solar house for the competition, Maison Reciprocity, was the product of a joint partnership with the French University of Angers. The two institutions have a long-standing, 30-year partnership. According to Dr. Jamie Russell, assistant professor of building science at Appalachian State, as well as the faculty team leader, “This trans-Atlantic collaboration provides the dual benefit of an integrative design project experience with the fantastic learning and bridge building that comes with an international exchange.”

Close cooperation was not only apparent on an international scale, but interdepartmentally as well: ASU’s team was composed of members of the Department of Technology and Environmental Design, as well as the communications, economics, and sustainable MBA programs.

This was not the first solar decathlon that Appalachian State University has participated in—their entry for the 2011 U.S. Solar Decathlon, The Solar Homestead, earned the People’s Choice Award and is currently available for sale through North Carolina-based sustainable construction company, Deltec Homes of Asheville. Team Réciprocité had hoped to achieve a similar goal in this year’s Decathlon, making Maison Reciprocity’s design available to the public in France. Said Mark Bridges, the communications manager for the project, “We have to make it [affordable] to anyone who wants to buy it.”

The desire to keep the design affordable was clearly reflected in Team Réciprocité’s choice of building materials. According to Jared Blum, EESI Chairman and president of Team Réciprocité’s sponsor, the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), “Maison Reciprocity [features] the latest in building systems technology as well as [incorporates] one of the most energy efficient insulation products available today, polyiso.” [read Jared Blum's commentary of the European Solar Decathlon here]. According to Scott Hopkins, the graduate construction manager for Maison Reciprocity, the decision to include polyiso in their house’s construction allowed the team “to dramatically improve upon the beloved row house typology without radically changing the norm in terms of products and systems.” Including a continuous layer of polyiso in Maison Reciprocity also helped on the design front, admitting “more natural daylight into a traditionally long, narrow row house without sacrificing thermal performance,” Hopkins continued.


Team Réciprocité’s final scores:

Architecture 8th place
Comfort conditions 11th place
Communication and awareness 4th place
Energy efficiency 12th place
Engineering and construction 15th place
Electrical energy balance 1st place
House functioning 10th place
Innovation 11th place
Urban design, transportation and affordability 13th place
Sustainability 11th place
Overall finish 9th place