The final results are in, and Israel is officially a world power in environmentally sensible home design. Overall, Team Israel came in fourth in the biennial Solar Decathlon, a contest that pits design and technology teams from around the world against each other to see who can come up with the best “house of the future.”

Israel’s entry, an 85-meter modular house built of locally-produced materials, came in first in the “energy balance” category for homes that produce more energy than they consume. It also won the hot water production category, and was second in the architecture category and fourth in the market appeal category.

The results were announced last week in Datong, China, where the contest took place. Two Chinese teams — from the University of Wollongong and the South China University of Technology — came in first and second overall, while Team Sweden came in third.

The Solar Decathlon, a contest with 10 categories first held in 2002, is sponsored by the US Department of Energy. This was the first time the contest has taken place outside the US. The purpose of the contest, which is open to teams from universities and colleges around the world, is to encourage teams to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

Interior view of Team Israel's project (Israel's 'green house' entry in the 2013 Solar Decathlon (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Interior view of Team Israel’s project (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Contestants build a model of their design, which is put on display at the contest site. Awards are granted for designs that make the best use of solar energy in such categories as architecture, market appeal, engineering, affordability, appliances and home entertainment. Team Israel, which included students and faculty from nearly a dozen Israeli academic institutions, was chosen last year in a semifinal event as one of 20 teams to participate in this year’s finals.

The 'green house' under construction (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The ‘green house’ under construction (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The Israeli house was built with a modular design, which will allow it to be expanded as necessary. The house, according to team leaders, was actually a modern take on a “house of the past, inspired by the typical Iron Age Israelite ‘four-room house,’ examples of which have been excavated at various archaeological sites in modern day Israel and around the Levant area.”

The house, a single-family dwelling, was to be built around an open patio, providing ventilation and light. The design stresses the connection of the indoor and the outdoor spaces, team leaders said, “increasing our awareness of the environment and reducing energy and resource dependence.”

The house also displayed the latest in Israeli-designed environmental and energy innovations, some of which were displayed for the first time at the Decathlon. For example, it was equipped with an array of photovoltaic panels, producing electricity from sunshine, along with high-transparency PV glass units for curtain walls and skylights, developed by Israeli start-up Pythagoras Solar. These solar power generation systems ensured that the house was able to produce more than enough electricity to keep all its appliances going and even produce more electricity than needed. Special insulation materials, also developed in Israel, ensured that a minimum of energy was expended on energy, the group said.

Team Israel shows off its awards (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Team Israel shows off its awards (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Decathlon entries were on display for nearly a month, during which time hundreds of thousands of people visited the exhibition. The exhibition attracts not only tourists but also business officials. Yossi Cory of the Shenkar School of Design, who, along with Israeli architect Chen Shalita, led the delegation, said several deals for sales of the home’s technologies are already in the works.

Oded Chai, administrative director of the project, praised the team for its awards, which it achieved on a shoestring budget.

“With a quarter of the budget available to the other top contenders, Israel has for the first time shown that it is possible to build a home with a negative energy balance. We believe that this accomplishment can have a major impact on the cleantech world, and not just in Israel,” he added.