[3rd] year Solar Decathlon Trip

October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

This past weekend, September 30th-October 1st, the third year studio taught by Travis Hicks took a trip to Washington DC in order to attend the 2011 Solar Decathlon. The students have been studying the zero energy houses since the beginning of the semester. Each student was assigned a separate house to analyze and diagram to best interpret the intentions of each team. By closely observing each teams design strategy, the students were better equipped to understand the overall composition of the houses. Upon arrival to the Solar Decathlon site, on the national lawn, the students were able to observe the various ways in which the teams approached the parameters set by the Decathlon rules. These houses were judged according to specific categories including; Affordability, Appliances, Architecture, Comfort Zone, Energy Balance, Engineering, Home Entertainment, Hot Water, and Market Appeal.

University of Maryland-Winner of the Solar Decathlon Competition


Alyssa Hankus, who has been studying The Watershed House was impressed by how the team focused on water collection and filtration, as well as how the water was recycled. “I didn’t realize how modular everything was even down to the furniture. However, I expected the interior to be bigger which was only intended for one or two people. The main success of this house was that each space is able to double in function in order to reduce its footprint” Alyssa adds.

Appalachian State University– Winner of People’s Choice Award

Jasmine Jones studied Appalachian State’s Solar Homestead house which utilized a bi-facial solar panel system which collected energy from both the top and bottom sides. Jasmine noted the homes mountainous terrain and focus on bringing the outside in with an emphasis on confined areas throughout. “I believe that the use of square footage was very successful. It almost seemed as if they has used too much square footage, but they had actually stayed within the limits”, Jasmine mentions.

New Zealand– Winner of Engineering Contest


 Philip Snider studied New Zealand’s “First Light” house, which focused on capturing the first natural light of the day within the interior. “It was very well crafted. They really focused on the circulation and the actual interior design of the house” Philip states.

Middlebury College– Winner of Clarity, Passion Score Communications Contest
Corry Mears studied Middlebury’s “Self Reliance” home which eluded to its vermont vernacular roots with a gabled roof and an emphasis on local material.  Corry was impressed by the houses exposed joinery and hardware. “I liked the outdoor community space. The house was built for a family of four, so they focused on how a family would live” Corry adds.
Travis concludes…

“The two days we spent in Washington, DC, ranged from sunny and warm weather on Friday to cold winds and pouring rain on Saturday.  Despite the poor weather, long lines of visitors waiting for as long as 30 minutes to get into each house defined the Solar Decathlon experience.  Even though I had heard about the Solar Decathlon for years, this was the first time I attended this biannual event.  What an experience!  Each university team, from as near as Maryland to as far as China, was successful in designing and building an inspiring solar-powered house.  Even with only two sunny days out of nine, nearly half of these houses were able to generate more energy than they consumed.  These cutting-edge designs also inspired the thirty students who traveled with me to DC.  After visiting the 2011 Solar Decathlon and talking to faculty and student participants, I am convinced that UNCG students have the skills, passion, and drive to compete in the Solar Decathlon.”

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