Updates from Irvine: Team Middlebury at the Solar Decathlon


Inside InSite

Video Walk-Through

Construction Kick-Off (4/13)

Final Scores

Middlebury’s Solar Decathlon team is competing in Irvine, Calif. this year. We’ll follow their progress as they navigate through the assembly, competition and homecoming. Check back here for regular updates and take a look at the team’s Facebook page  and web site for more news. Follow them on Twitter: @MiddSD13.  Photos supplied by Team Middlebury unless otherwise noted.


10/12/13 – Congratulations! Team Middlebury Finishes 8th Overall

Team Middlebury poses for a photo with their third place award in the affordability contest. Photo courtesy Solar Decathlon.

Team Middlebury poses for a photo with their third place award in the affordability contest. Photo courtesy Solar Decathlon.

In a sea of graduate architecture and engineering programs, Middlebury was the tenacious liberal arts college that proved itself over and over, ending up with an 8th place finish in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The D.O.E. announced the winners at a ceremony in Irvine, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 11.

“Coming from our Liberal Arts background we are proud to be able to compete with the rest of the teams which are coming from architecture and engineering graduate programs,” said team manager Gwen Cook ’13.

Middlebury did very well in a series of scoring contests, with third place finishes in affordability, communications, and home entertainment. They nabbed 7th place in architecture and top 10 finishes in the other categories.

“The Solar Decathlon is inspiring and training the next generation of clean energy architects, engineers and entrepreneurs, and showing that affordable, clean energy technologies can help homeowners save money and energy today,” said D.O.E. Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Congratulations to the Solar Decathlon 2013 competitors – your hard work and creativity is helping to build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

“What an incredible accomplishment all of you have achieved over the past two years with InSite,” said President Ron Liebowitz in a  congratulatory note to the team, “capping it all off with a superb showing in Irvine.”

“To have been accepted into the competition, and then to place in the top 10, speaks volumes in a global-wide program that has become so competitive,”Liebowitz said. “The homes this year are remarkable, from top to bottom.”

Team Middlebury began the epic journey to Irvine in fall 2011 when it proposed its plan to the college, then later to the Solar Decathlon competition. Simply being selected among the highly competitive field of applicants is an honor in itself. Middlebury was among 20 teams selected to compete in 2013. Over the course of two years, students worked on everything from design and architecture to engineering, construction and communications. In September, 2013, they shipped their home by train to Los Angeles, where it was transported by truck to Irvine.

The 2013 Solar Decathlon wraps up Sunday, Oct. 13, after which the team will deconstruct the house and ship it back to Middlebury by rail and truck. The house will be reconstructed on a permanent site on Shannon Street in Middlebury, where it will serve as a student residence and educational resource.

10/10/13 – Two Big Contest Results

This was a big day for all of the teams because points were awarded in two of the ten contests. Middlebury had an excellent showing, achieving third place in the Affordability contest and fifth place in the Market Appeal contest. By the end of the day, with points tallied, Middlebury was nicely situated in fourth place overall. Fellow Vermont team Norwich University made their home state proud, tying for first place in affordability and moving up to 10th place overall.

10/9/13 – Team InSite Reflects on Challenges of Solar Decathlon

10/8/13 – Update from Team Manager Cordelia Newbury ’13

“Yesterday we had the communications and engineering walk-through. Jonah, Gwen, Joseph, and Ari all felt extremely proud and confident in their respective presentations and we look forward to hearing the results on those on friday and saturday respectively. This morning we had our architecture walk-through and the jury was extremely impressed by our liberal arts background and our holistic mission and design. We have the affordability and market appeal walk-through coming up and are excited for the juried contests to come into our scores as they will really help us in pulling ahead!

“The net metering has gone really well- we are keeping steady in our measured contests and are working to improve our processes to improve results. We are doing really well in our energy gain- this is especially important as we are going to enter into a cloudy few days where energy gain might reduce a bit, but we are feeling confident in our net metering right now.

‘The tours have also gone really well and we are getting fabulous feedback on our home- the public seems to think it is the most livable space and extremely accommodating of the needs of a family. For us, this is such an important piece of feedback as we want our ideas to spread as far as possible and to inspire sustainable design across the country. we have also gotten a few comments on our solar path, with families expressing interest in our drawings and specs  to build a solar path for themselves!”

10/7/13 – Photos and Scoring Update
Photos by Brendan Mahoney ’11

As of this posting, Middlebury is doing well in the standings after four contests. They have been as high as first place, but are currently in 10th with six contests left to go. It’s a rapidly changing picture, so keep an eye on them as their standing is likely to change again soon. To keep tabs on the scores and standings, click here.

10/3/13 – InSite Opens to the Public
Video by Matt Lennon ’13 and Brendan Mahoney ’11

10/3/13 – Welcoming the Media (Check out that barn board!)
Video by Matt Lennon ’13 and Brendan Mahoney ’11

10/2/13 – House is Completed – Inspection Time
Video by Matt Lennon ’13

10/1/13 – InSite is Nearly Finished
Photos by Brendan Mahoney ’11

9/30/13 – L.A. Times Features InSite


9/27/13 – Video Recaps of Construction Progress
Videos by Team Middlebury

From the team: “The team in Irvine has been very busy this week. Yesterday they finished raising all of the exterior and interior walls of InSite, completing the form of our home. Today the team will work to place the deck panels and raise the Solar Path. For more photos of the construction process, make sure to check out our facebook page. The team has also been enjoying seeing all of the other teams’ designs coming to life, and we can’t wait to tour all of them!”

9/23/13 – Starting Assembly

From the team: “Started at 5:30 to pack our uhaul. We then got to the front of the line at 6:40 to get on site and met the sun with sun salutations led by Kate. Our crane was the first to set up and now we are waiting for our first container to come on site. Great start to assembly!!”

Later in the day, the team's foundation passed inspection and they were able to lower in the mechanical module.

Later in the day, the team’s foundation passed inspection and they were cleared to lower in the mechanical module.


Middlebury students on the assembly team take a break from building the foundation for InSite.

Team members from Team Middlebury College Solar Decathlon 2013 and Team Kentuckiana Solar Decathlon 2013 warm up with a Sun Salutation while waiting to begin construction at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy) — at Orange County Great Park.

Team members from Team Middlebury College Solar Decathlon 2013 and Team Kentuckiana Solar Decathlon 2013 warm up with a Sun Salutation while waiting to begin construction at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy) — at Orange County Great Park.


Middlebury’s assembly team waits at the “starting line” to begin work on InSite at Orange County Great Park.

9/22/13 – Arrival in Irvine

The assembly team and the container trucks carrying the house have arrived. Assembly begins Monday, Sept. 23.


Team Middlebury arrives in California.



Shipping containers carrying InSite were delivered by train to Los Angeles, then trucked to Orange County Great Park (above).


Comment Policy

We hope to create a lively discussion on MiddMag.com and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. MiddMag.com may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

Leave a comment »

  1. Good luck getting started on assembling the house. Keep us posted on your progress, but don’t sacrifice valuable time and attention from your work. And have fun!


  2. You guys look “HOT”! Best of luck to you!

  3. Wishing you all the best of luck! We are rooting for you, Team Middlebury!

  4. Watching you from afar…wishing I could be there in person.
    Stay strong and stay positive–what a great experience…enjoy it.


  5. Go Team InSite! We know how hard you have all worked these past two years and it is all on the line and happening right NOW! Your design is awesome, your enthusiasm and drive is uplifting and we believe in you! Keep your spirits up and know that any challenge you meet in assembly the next few days you will be able to meet- because you are who you are and you know you have it in you to think out of the box and make it all work! Onward! You have worked countless hours, sacrificed so much more than anyone understands but you, and THIS is your time! Celebrate and revel in what you have earned and accomplished and

    View More
    good luck! Our whole family is assembling from all corners of the country to be there to cheer you on when the competition opens! Can’t wait!

    View Less
  6. Congratulations and a big thank you to the Week 1 Construction Crew! And good luck passing the baton to the Week 2 crew!

  7. It has been so much fun watching the whole process from the beginning two years ago, when the ideas were barely on paper in the application to the DOE, through the intense work on team building and design and finance, to seeing the completed house in Middlebury, and now watching the videos of In Site emerging in the desert of Southern California. A tremendous effort and a fabulous product. You guys are amazing!

  8. Great job on your design and building of the solar house. I love you walk way under your solar panels. Great idea. Best of luck in the final stages. hats of to everyone for their hard work. Job well done.

  9. wonderful to hear about your interactions with all of the other teams…keep at it -all back here in middlebury wishing you well!!!

  10. Visiting InSite live, in Irvine at the opening of the public tours made me even more appreciative of what a liberal arts education is all about. To understand that these Middlebury students have accomplished what they have without the help of an engineering, architecture or graduate program to help them over the past two contests is truly incredible. The passion and energy and commitment of the students giving tours to the public was palpable, infectious, and they certainly stood out. The challenges that they have been facing would discourage most of us, but they have met them with resolve, tenacity and composure. They have made many friends and have toured the other houses with enthusiasm and great interest. It was

    View More
    amazing to listen and watch them interact. In my mind they have already won regardless of what any scoreboard reports. Bravo! Job more than well done!

    View Less
  11. Congratulations – you all also deserve an award for being wizards and masters of creating a more sustainable future – no matter what challenges arise! Thanks for the inspiration and for showing us all how to do it.

  12. Congratulations, all of you! What a huge pack of creativity you got there, Middlebury-

  13. You have every reason to be proud of your accomplishments. I would love to see a true walk through the house and hear an explanation of the house’s mechanics. I love the barn boards.

  14. Correction, I just found the walk through video. Great job!

  15. I see these videos and see these young people commit to something with passion, with energy, with enthusiasm – and I think what a marvelous example they give the rest of us. Scoreboards are fine, they’re a measure of what others (in this case) happen to think about the effort, and some of it is in fact measurable forms of “success.” What really and truly makes me very proud to be a graduate of Middlebury is to think that this little college in the folds of the Green Mountains of Vermont, way away from what we might think are the paths to success continues to find ways to inspire, to motivate, to truly engage with the world around

    View More
    them. Every time I hear arguments for STEM, I come back with, “Don’t leave out the A – STE-A-M – because that gives you motion to accomplish!” The liberal, or humane arts, the “A” in STEAM, informs and gives a heart to what otherwise might be reduced to mere numbers. THIS is what a liberal arts, a humane arts, education is about! Bravissimi tutti!!

    View Less
  16. update October 19: Congratulations once again, Midd team! I was glued to the news about the previous Solar Decathlon and am thrilled at what you have accomplished this time in Irvine. You make us all proud!

  17. I walked around the outside and looked in some windows last week (April 2014). I am very impressed and see applications to apply to a small house I am intending to begin construction of in the next year a few miles away in Cornwall VT. I look forward to future open houses and presentations on your design.
    Timothy Fisher

Comment Policy

We hope to create a lively discussion on MiddMag.com and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. MiddMag.com may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

Leave Comment