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In this year’s Solar Decathlon, the seventh iteration of the biennial competition started by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002, teams addressed issues of extreme weather with responsive homes that can withstand tornadoes, floods, and drought conditions through their respective designs.

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From storm-resistant shelters to breezy dwellings that open like a flower, the solar-powered houses in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015 are as diverse and creative as the teams behind them. Each was inspired by the unique cultures, experiences and landscapes of its creators, who represent more than 20 colleges and universities around the world.

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All their hard work and ingenuity will be on display this October 8-18 at the 2015 Solar Decathlon’s grand finale in Irvine, California. The 14 collegiate teams will put their final designs to the test in 10 contests (hence the name “decathlon”), with top honors going to the house that best blends affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with energy efficiency and sustainability.

On Aug. 29, nearly 10 years ago today, a calamitous young hellion from the Bahamas named Katrina, having previously caused quite a ruckus down around Miami and the Panhandle, marched straight from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into southeast Louisiana with all her might. Floodwaters unleashed by Katrina’s Category 3 fury inundated the city of New Orleans and its surrounding parishes. Levees were breached, highways were submerged, roofs were peeled off of buildings, entire neighborhoods were washed away. Over 1,200 human lives were lost as were thousands upon thousands of homes.

Ten years of healing and rebuilding later, areas of New Orleans and neighboring Mississippi still haven’t completely recovered from Hurricane Katrina. They likely never will. And in those 10 years, there have been other historic and horrific storms, both home and abroad, including tornados that literally turned the towns of Joplin, Missouri, and Moore, Oklahoma, inside out and upside down in 2011 and 2013, respectively. And then there was Hurricane Sandy, a storm that, in October 2012, managed to bring even New York City to its knees.

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Stevens Tech, SURE House

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NYC Tech, DURA

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Crowder College, Shelter3

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