In 2002, when the U.S. Department of Energy held the first Solar Decathlon—a competition for the most energy-efficient homes in the world—on the National Mall in Washington, DC, most of the houses were, to put it charitably, on the humble side. But there was no shortage of innovation. There was a ranch-type building with prism skylights to maximize daylight and a cabinlike model with a portable solar electricity source.



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