The Solar Decathlon is an international student competition requiring university-led interdisciplinary student teams to research, design, build and operate a solar-powered house. Projects like this are highly competitive but have significant learning benefits for those involved. The Decathlon requires a wide range of student skills and so is by nature highly interdisciplinary. To win requires a significant amount of collaboration between team members who must rapidly accumulate specialised knowledge of diverse fields including solar design. This paper looks at the Solar Decathlon 2011 project submitted by Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, examines the pedagogical methodologies used, and debates the usefulness of this type of interdisciplinary and collaborative project for students of a school of architecture. It notes the difficulties placed on integration of a single-project focus on the wider scope of a typical architectural education and proposes that the broader degree curriculum may benefit from evolving to better accommodate the flexibility needed for targeted design-led research competitions such as the Solar Decathlon.
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