Originally posted on the Solar Decathlon News Blog on September 26, 2011. View original post 
The big buzz word in Washington, D.C., these days is budget. In the solar village at West Potomac Park, cost savings are top of mind for the decathletes as well.
This year, the Affordability Contest was added as one of the 10 contests that make up the Solar Decathlon. It replaced the Lighting Design Contest, which is now evaluated as part of other contests.
Teams can earn the 100 possible points in the Affordability Contest by achieving an estimated construction cost of $250,000 or less. A sliding point scale is applied to houses that cost between $250,000 and $600,000. Houses that receive a cost estimate of more than $600,000 receive zero points.
Matt Hansen reviews each team’s design drawings and construction specifications to estimate the total construction cost of its house. (Credit: Alexis Power/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)
Matt Hansen, a professional cost estimator (affectionately known as “The Costimator” around the village), has been working with teams since March 2010 to put a price on every nut, bolt, fixture, and appliance used in the houses. Matt and his team used RSMeans to find exact or close matches to the materials and methods indicated by the teams’ construction documents. The final cost estimate includes labor as well as any heavy equipment—such as cranes, lifts, or loaders—used to build the houses on the competition site.
Tomorrow, the results of the Affordability Contest will be announced in the main tent at 2:30 p.m. Have the 2011 teams risen to the challenge? Stay tuned to find out.
Alexis Powers is a member of the Solar Decathlon communications team.