From an article by Jim Dawson and Devin Powell on

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Team members from the University of Minnesota were tense as they prepared their 565 square foot solar home for a visit by jurors from the engineering and lighting judging panels. Experts in their respective fields, the jurors’ visit would determine the team’s score for the aesthetics and functionality aspects of their design that cannot be properly evaluated by measurements alone.

The judges would also be taking comfort zone and appliance measurements, and the students were worried about every operational detail inside their $501,000 house.

The Minnesota team was in 7th place out of the 20 teams that built entirely solar-powered homes on the National Mall in downtown Washington as part of the Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon competition. . . .

At the other end of the Mall, the team from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was struggling. The team was in last place, and were struggling to get the house’s sliding doors to move smoothly on their tracks. Their house, valued at $485,000, had tabletops made out of pressed paper and cashew shells and the ability to warm up just from the heat of the people inside.

But its last-place standing reflected a 3-inch problem in the design.

“The west end of the house was 3 inches too tall to go through Indiana [on the transport trailer],” said Eric Davis, the project’s chief engineer. “So we had to go down through Illinois, then cross Kentucky.”

There was another height regulation problem when they got to the edge of Washington, and it took another 20 hours to finally get their structure to the National Mall. While the other teams were fine tuning their home’s systems, the Wisconsin team was still wearing hard hats and putting their house together.

“We missed the metering contest, so our score is down,” Davis said.