Team Maryland's Solar Decathalon 2011 houseThe 2011 Solar Decathalon is on in Washington, D.C.  As in previous years, universities and governments from around the world have shown up in Washington to display energy-efficient home designs, supported by the companies that provide the technology for efficient homes, and demonstrating unique and clever ways of putting them all together.

The homes are evaluated on multiple points of performance and practicality, leading to winners in multiple categories, and one overall winner, at the end of the week.

All of the homes have to be livable.  Some of the homes are merely test-beds… more like a high-tech camping shelter than what we might consider an actual home.  But then, some of those serve to remind us that maybe we don’t need all the modern trappings of an American house just to be comfortable.

The best thing about the homes is, you can visit them… tour them… see inside and find out how they tick.  I’ve been going to the Decathalons for years, checking out the houses and their innovative design choices.  I honestly hope that at some point, some (or even all) of the designs presented at the Decathalon become available for consumers to buy and put on their lot of choice.  I’ve seen a number of them that I would have been happy to buy, if I’d been in the market for a new home.  And I consider most of them ideal for vacation homes.  Take, for example, the Team Maryland home (pictured at top), a design that I’d be glad to call home right now.

Whether or not these designs become actual homes, of course, isn’t the point.  The point is to showcase ways of redesigning our homes to be more practical, energy-efficient and sustainable.  On that point, every home is a winner, and worth seeing.