Although the 2013 Solar Decathlon is due to kick off more than six months from now at its new home in sunny Southern California after getting the boot from Washington, D.C. by the National Park Service, it’s never too early to take a sneak peek at some of the solar-powered abodes that will be showcased during in the fiercest collegiate design-build-operate competition in all the land.
Further details emerged last week about the home conceived by first-time Decathlon contender, the West Virginia University (AKA “Team Peak”). The WVU’s SD landing page gives a general overview: boasting “a wholesome, rustic design” that’s heavy on the use of “wood and natural materials” the WVU team has created “a self-sufficient house for a self-sufficient family — a reflection of Appalachia culture and history. The house will tie in elements of its natural surroundings while functioning with the demands of modern society. It will integrate innovative technologies and passive design techniques to maximize energy efficiency and support sustainable design practices and approaches.”
A rustic, Appalachia-influenced shelter constructed with lots of wood? I suppose that can only mean one thing: The Solar Decathlon is getting its very first log home.
According to WVUtoday, the team recently got the go ahead to start test assembling and disassembling the log-style home after the Department of Energy approved the finalized design. And test assembling and disassembling they will — over and over and over again on a piece of vacant land near the school's rec center. “It allows time for errors and will give us time to perfect it,” explains Kenneth Hite, an electrical engineering student who’s serving as the team lead. “We’ll put it together a few times like Legos, and we’re going to make mistakes. We’d rather make those mistakes here than in California.” Adds computer engineering major and team member Brendan Bellanca: “We want to do as many practice runs as possible. In California, we’ll have only seven days to build it.”
Other than its cozy and down-homey design and the fact that it will obviously be clad with solar panels, there’s not that many more particulars to share on the home as of yet other than it will include a nifty app-based automation system and, as detailed in an earlier WVUtoday article, also include a hearth-esque central fulcrum that divides the “day areas” on the western end of the home and the “night areas” on the eastern end. There’s no early word on the home’s couches, an important aspect to any WVU-sponsored project.
The WVU team consists of approximately 50 students from across a range of disciplines (the design kids get to comingle with the ag school kids!). Thanks to an international research agreement, reps from the University of Rome Tor Vergata are also involved with the design and building of the home. And because plane tickets from Morgantown to Orange County don’t come cheap, you can find out how to make a tax-deductible donation to the team here.
The 2013 Solar Decathlon is due to kick off Oct. 3 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. As in past Decathlons, a total of 20 teams from around the globe are in the running including entrants from Stanford, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USC, the Vienna University of Technology, and a favorite of mine from the 2011 Decathlon, Middlebury College. You can keep up with the WVU teams's progress on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.