As EV and plug-in hybrids are starting to be a more common sight, so is the need for charging stations. This led Michigan-based Duo-Guard industries to launch a charging station design contest.

The challenge: Design a one-car solar charging station and canopy with emphasis on economy, aesthetics, modular flexibility and sustainability.

Designers from Portugal, Nigeria, Spain, United Kingdom and Greece, as well as the United States, charged up their creativity to enter this competition opened in October 2012 by Duo-Gard Industries Inc.

Winners were announced April 17 by David Miller, Duo-Gard’s president.

“All the entries were impressive, and the decisions were not easy. We were looking for something with WOW impact, coupled with a high level of practicality,” Miller said. “The winning designs integrated this, plus they’re just plain cool. These designs will help us expand our markets and serve them well.”

Duo-Gard describes itself as a design/build manufacturer of specialized outdoor structures and high-performance daylighting systems.

Greek architect Anestis Papaemanouil, head of iarch architectural firm, took the top honor with his “TWITT” concept, inspired by the form of birds sitting on a wire. Duo-Gard contacted the winner at his office in Xanthi, Thrace, Greece. “You cannot imagine how excited I was,” said Papaemanouil. “I couldn’t sleep!”

He said a fascination with the balance in nature, demonstrated by birds resting and flying, led to his concept of TWITT. His compact, steel-and-aluminum-framed structure features photovoltaic panels above a translucent canopy of multiwall polycarbonate, which allows diffused daylight and enhances LED illumination at night. The PV panels rotate around a horizontal axis to achieve optimum slope and performance, regardless of the station’s orientation. The structure’s ballasts eliminate a need for anchoring and actually allow it to be mobile, as well as infinitely expandable. The power produced can be used above and beyond charging and lighting requirements, adding to the station’s sustainability.

The winning design will be built and installed in the Philadelphia area for Greenbuild 2013. It will be marketed internationally by Duo-Gard, and the designer will receive three percent of the station’s gross sales for five years.

Honorable Mention went to William Cultrara, architectural designer/builder and owner of Cultrara Associates Inc. in Victor NY, for his station titled “The Franklin Grid.” Cultrara also cited architect/mentor George Baker AIA. Featuring steel retro columns supporting translucent curved canopies, the concept integrates traditional components with a contemporary approach that results in streamlined elegance.

Crediting inspiration from Leonardo DaVinci and Ben Franklin, the designer said his concept of retro engineering “exhibits a harmonious contrast between what is new and what once was. The intertwining of contrast presents a timeless design appropriate for a magnitude of placement opportunities.”

This is an attractive advantage, said Miller, which can lead to a number of design variations for different site situations and purposes. He said Duo-Gard plans to add The Franklin Grid station to the company’s expanding line of standard designs in outdoor structures. Cultrara will receive a percentage of any sales of the station.

Miller said Duo-Gard hopes its design competition helps raise awareness about issues of sustainability and the urgent need to consider our environment.

“We appreciate the participation of designers from around the world, as well as the judges who shared their insight and expertise,” said Miller.

Judges included Jim Crockett, Editorial Director of Architectural Products magazine, and Brandon Tinianov, President of the Board of Directors, USGBC Northern California. They joined Duo-Gard’s judging team led by Miller.

“With the proliferation of electric and hybrid vehicles, power at the point of parking is as good an idea as a cold beer with a bowl of hot chili,” said Jim Crockett. “I’m also a fan of new materials coming to bear, especially in a creative way…I applaud Duo-Gard for taking leadership on this issue and encourage other manufacturers to engage the design community in a similar manner to ultimately deliver end products that are good, not only for the built environment, but also for the people that inhabit it.”