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Solar Decathlon - Washington D.C, USA



Client: Victoria University School of Architecture

Location: Wellington, Washington D.C

Project: Solar Decathlon "Meridian First Light House"


Victoria University’s School of Architecture and Design’s entry into the prestigious United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 was the catalyst to showcase energy efficient technology from New Zealand on a world stage.

The Solar Decathlon is held annually in Washington D.C and showcases 20 teams from around the world, competing to build the best looking, most efficient and affordable house using the power of solar technology.

The Victoria University team created a Kiwi bach for their entry which was placed 3rd in the world after the competition covering September and October 2011 and LEAP were thrilled to be involved in such a great project.

The team were supported from the initial design stages by LEAP.

LEAP designed a fully integrated plumbing and water system for the team. LEAP’s water systems were chosen for their energy efficiency, ease of installation, design and system integration.



The LEAP SOLARGENIUS solar water heating system was chosen by the Solar Decathlon team to power the hot water for the house by utilising the significant power of the sun – the main star of the Meridian First Light house. Solar water heating systems are commonly installed in both new and existing houses, and provided the Meridian First Light house with a saving off their energy bill of up to 82% in normal circumstances.

Click here to see more information on SOLARGENIUS



LEAP also supplied a THERMAGENIUS heat pump water heater as a backup system to the SOLARGENIUS. Most of the competition was held on rainy or cloudy days, contributing to low solar energy gain. The heat pump water heater provided hot water using energy converted from ambient air.

THERMAGENIUS was less dependent on weather for the competition and used very little energy. A well designed hot water heat pump home heating system is capable  of delivering up to four times the energy efficiency of traditional fuel systems.  Heat pump technology can make major cost savings, while avoiding thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

Click here to see more information on THERMAGENIUS



LEAP also supplied the BLAZESTOP fire sprinkler system integrated into the cold water plumbing system. This provides the Meridian First Light house with protection in the event of a fire. BLAZESTOP uses sprinkler heads concealed in the ceiling and is designed to control most fires within three to five minutes, dousing flames fast, minimising damage and giving occupants time to escape.

Click here to see more information on Blazestop



In addition to these systems LEAP also created a unique drying cupboard powered by free solar hot water from the SOLARGENIUS system. The LEAP team designed the system to accommodate an oversized solar capacity and allow the tank to dump heated water into the cupboard once the water from the Solar system hit 90°C. The excess water moves around the evaporated coils in the drying cupboard, working like an oversized towel rail.

For more information on the house and the competition visit



The Meridian First Light House took out 3rd place overall in the Solar Decathlon competition 2011. Of note, they received 1st place in the Hot Water competition. The contest assessed whether a house's water heating system could supply all the hot water needed for daily washing and bathing. Teams scored points by successfully completing several 15 gallon "hot water draws". The goal of this task was to supply 56.8 Litres of water at 43.3 degrees Celsius in 10 minutes or less.