The international competition for solar houses called Solar Decathlon, Middle East edition is the reason why 15 teams from 11 countries came here with 15 solar homes are now open to visits in Solar Innovation Center in Dubai.
Until 29th you can visit us in Solar Innovation Center (60km from Burj Kalifa into the desert) between 9.00 – 12.00 from Sunday to Wednesday and 9.00 – 18.00 from Thursday to Saturday. Plan your visit here.
During the 10 days period, all the participating houses are monitored and tested on 10 different contests, 6 with international jurors and 4 with sensors installed in every house. In the same period the houses are open for visits, offering guided tours to everyone interested.
Solar Decathlon was created by the US Department of Energy in 2001 and it now takes place on more than 5 continents becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In the last 8 years I have participated in 2012 edition in Madrid, 2014 edition in Versailles, and now in Dubai.
This is also the reason why EFdeN home and I are here.
In the last two years, we had to design and build an amazing 100% electric home, solar powered and sustainable. We built it in Romania this summer, and then we had to disassemble and transport it to Dubai where we reassembled in just 14 days.
The magic started in 2010, the year that determined the course of my life. Back then a young architect Pierre Bornwoski, also a teaching assistant in Romania, visited Casa de Campo Park in Madrid.
There he saw lots of solar houses in what was Europe’s first edition of Solar Decathlon, worlds most important competition for solar houses. Pierre got back in Romania energised by the idea that we could participate too so he started getting people on board. My sister was one of the students that were recommended to be part of and he got me in. I knew nothing, but willing to help with anything they needed. This was one of my smartest decisions ever. I felt the stupidest persons for the next 2 years and I loved it. I knew I was in a good place.
But no one knew anything.
Even today solar houses are still a tiny minority of the houses around the world, but back in 2010 it was a rarity, photovoltaic panels were a magical thing in Eastern Europe and very rare in Europe. We did not have any building experience even with traditional houses, nor any volunteering experience, we did not have money or even a culture of trying to be the best.
We succeeded agains all odds.
Romania’s NGOs back then were very rare so companies were not used to people coming for sponsorship and lots of them believed we will stole their money and run abroad. Looking back, I am still amazed we succeeded. Pierre, Oana and the rest of the team were so devoted to this idea so it didn’t matter the HOW and that we lacked so much of it, we did not even understand WHY we did so many sacrifices and neither we asked-ourselves. We were curious people trying to push the limits that somehow have found each-others there. And we interdisciplinary designed the house (impossible#1) and built it together by our own hands (impossible#2), this being the single best approach to education that works.
We were a Dacia fighting a Ferrari and we won.
This in something that Pierre always use to say, that we were a Dacia, which was a cheap Romanian carmaker and we were fighting a Ferrari. This was actually true, our budget was around 350.000 euros while the others had over 1 million, topping at 5.000.000 euros. We got to the competition in Madrid (impossible#3) while UK and Holland withdrew and we scored second in Energy Efficiency Contest (impossible#4) and won other awards too. 20 teams from 16 countries all over the world and we were second in a world competition. We were a damn good Dacia!
I was a ‘Yes’ person for my whole experience in PRISPA convinced by the fact that I had something to learn from everyone and everything.
I also learnt by practicing that leadership is about amplifying others and removing yourself from the equation and moonshots goals are great are worth living pursuing them.
But it had a short intense life. Beautiful and short.
A great story always ends beautifully but this one did not. Or it did end well eventually, agains all odds again. In order to get to Madrid we had to sell the house before going to competition to rise more money so we build it for the owner when we came back from Madrid.
We came back home happy we did more than we could ever hope and we had to travel 3 days by bus (we did not have money to book an airplane). It wasn’t that bad, we were so tired we slept almost all the time in that very uncomfortable position. Our parents expected us, for some of the team. We proudly represented Romania, but we were still no-ones, we did not get coverage on media outlets, a few knew about our existence.
This experience changed me and I wanted to change other too.
The team that managed PRISPA stopped and parked the beautiful Dacia, fullfilling their mission to participate to Solar Decathlon and they did an amazing job. But for me there was no ”next big thing” to be part of, no framework for people like me to grow as we grew, so we had to create this.
Together with some of the colleagues from PRISPA we got qualified to the next edition of Solar Decathlon, our goal being to create a long-lasting adventure, but this is an other story.