I was delighted this morning to learn that Victoria University of Wellington’s First Light team placed 3rd overall in the 2011 Solar Decathlon. That’s an impressive and exceptional result.

The First Light House team celebrate after their 3rd place announcement

First Light team members celebrating after the final scores were announced.

Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition that challenges entrants to build an environmentally friendly house which is then judged on ten different sets of aesthetic, efficiency, conservation, and comfort criteria. You can read all about the competition in my previous post of November 2010.

Last year the First Light crew became the first New Zealand team ever to make the Solar Decathlon finals. That entitled them to reconstruct their house this year on the National Mall in Washington DC,  to compete head-to-head against the other 19 finalists from around the United States and several other countries.

Folks queue up to check out 3rd place winners, New Zealand’s First Light House.

Washingtonians and tourists queue up to tour the First Light house.

My Embassy colleagues and I have been tracking First Light’s journey since the very beginning, and we had the great pleasure of touring the house a few months ago, just before it was shipped to DC.

I can tell you first-hand that the First Light bach is a truly impressive building structurally, aesthetically, and functionally. I knew it would impress the judges. Take another look to see what I mean:

My DC friends tell me that the Kiwi bach was very popular among the hundreds of thousands of people who visited the various houses during the competition. You can get a flavor of the energy and adventure in Washington from the First Light team’s blog.

Like First Light, the other top winners were inspired by the natural environment in their home locales. A team from Maryland University won first prize in the competition with its WaterShed house inspired by Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.

University of Maryland took 1st place with their WaterShed house.

The 1st place WaterShed house created by the University of Maryland team.

Second place went to the team from Purdue University for its Midwestern-inspired INhome (short for “Indiana home”).

The entry from Appalachian State University won the People’s Choice award for its Solar Homestead inspired by traditional Appalachian settlements.

Purdue University’s 2nd place-winning INhouse

Purdue University’s 2nd place INhouse.

All of the teams worked long and hard to create impressive structures. Check out the final scores to see how the teams did in each of the ten challenges in the competition. Take a look at the Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon Flickr pages to see photos of all of the entrants as well as more shots of the crowds of viewers.

Congrats again to my friends from Victoria University on the great First Light showing, and thanks to my colleagues at the Department of Energy for developing and running such an important, impactful, and exciting program.