Students from around the world gathered in Irvine, Calif., this week to take part in the Solar Decathlon 2013, a design competition that challenges students to build the world's most efficient solar-powered prefab home. Inhabitat was on the scene to view all of the houses, beginning with Team USC's net-zero FluxHome, which boasts lush living walls and on-site EV charging. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas' DesertSol house was another strong contender. The resilient home is intended for the Mojave Desert, and it has a very small footprint, minimizing its impact on the landscape. Students from SCI-Arc teamed up with Caltech to produce the transforming DALE House, which expands to about three times its original size, redefining the home's relationship with the outdoors. Team Capitol DC's Harvest Home makes use of all available resources -- sun, energy, water, wind and even recycled materials -- to create a home that is zero-energy and that produces its own fruits and vegetables. To see more of the top houses at this year's event, check out Inhabitat's roundup of six houses to watch at the Solar Decathlon.
The world's first so-called practical jetpack is inching closer to commercial production. Martin Aircraft Company's personal aircraft can hit speeds of up to 46MPH, and it can stay airborne for about 30 minutes. Commercial production of the jetpack is set to launch next year. Meanwhile, marine engineer Graham Hawkes has designed the DeepFlight Super Falcon, a two-seat electric underwater plane that promises to navigate the seas in "style, safety and comfort." In other, more practical transportation news, Kia announced plans to bring the all-electric Kia Soul to the US -- the company's first all-electric car to be sold in America. BMW also made a big announcement this week, revealing that the company will soon offer plug-in hybrid versions of its entire lineup. And Nissan announced that owners of the all-electric Nissan Leaf in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas will have free access to the eVgo network of public charging stations for the first year after their purchases.
The government shutdown, which began last week, sent more than 1 million federal employees home, and it could have a lasting effect on the environment, reducing the EPA's workforce and stymieing climate research. Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger just unveiled the world's first 3D-printed room, and it's probably the most baroque interior ever made. The elaborate 11-ton installation is printed with millions of incredibly detailed surfaces, and it looks like a historic temple of some sort. The first shipment of 3Doodler 3D-printing pens is now making its way to customers across the world, enabling users to make 3D objects by simply drawing in the air. And in a fascinating new farming development, a horticulture center in the UK developed the TomTato, a single plant that grows both tomatoes and potatoes. Its inventors claim that the tomatoes from the plant taste better than most, and they are in no way genetically modified.