For the next three weeks, 20 university teams from across the country will be competing in Washington DC to "design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house." The teams had to build their houses at their various schools and transport them to Washington for the competition – they are actually setting up on the National Mall for public visitation and review.
I was introduced to this project by my dad who is a Professor of Architecture at Lawrence Technological University (LTU) in Southfield, MI. LTU is the only group from Michigan to be selected to compete, and is the smallest of all the schools competing. They are in great company in the competition with "little" schools like MIT, Cornell, UIUC, Carnegie Mellon and Texas A&M (just to name a few).
These houses have to be modular (obviously to move them across the country) and be self-sufficient for all energy needs (in fact have enough left over to power an electric car).
All the homes will be built this week and then be evaluated based on: Architecture, Engineering, Market Viability, Communications, Comfort Zone, Appliances, Hot Water, Lighting, Energy Balance, and Getting Around (details on these items in the links below).
If the science, design, and engineering wasn't enough, the coolest thing about this contest, to me, is how it takes people from so many different specialties to work together to create a winning entry. You clearly need the design of the building, the construction, but also the engineering of the electrical and storage systems, science behind the collection, storage, and use of energy, the communications aspects (presentations and web sites are also evaluated), to even marketing and business aspects of the "market viability" of the effort. Almost anyone could contribute to make such a project a success – great idea.
I am going to read up on them daily and I am really rooting for them. There has to be a way to make this type of learning and effort much more common (great way to learn, great results).
Competition Site: http://www.solardecathlon.org/
LTU project site: http://solar.ltu.edu/index.php
Construction Blog: http://aloeterra.blogspot.com/ (this is the best site to read if you want all the details as they unfold this week) – getting started with construction yesterday (http://aloeterra.blogspot.com/2007/10/check-one-off-list.html )