Talk about a high-profile project. In late September, a miniature subdivision will sprout on the National Mall in Washington as 14 teams of design students each assemble a prefabricated, 800-square-foot solar home.

The event will top off a 17-month design competition called the Solar Decathlon, in which teams design homes where everything--HVAC, dishwasher, lights, a home office, even an electric car charging station--gets its power from the sun.

After assembling the homes, the students will live in them for a week while giving tours to the public.

The Decathlon is the first such competition ever held says the Department of Energy, one of the event's sponsors. The DOE hopes that repeating the contest each year will encourage students to generate compact, affordable designs that can be mass produced. George Douglas at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, another sponsor, says it could take three or four contests to come up with a marketable home.

Except for $5,000 in seed money, each team must find its own sponsors. They are seeking money, building materials, and appliances. Builders who would like to help one of the teams should contact Cecile Warner at NREL 303-384-6516 or For information and a list of participants go to