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ODU/HU Solar Decathlon Team Gets Positive Feedback at International Builders' Show

Team Tidewater, the Old Dominion University/Hampton University entry in the U.S. Department of Energy's 2011 Solar Decathlon, demonstrated the model for its energy-efficient house at the NAHB International Builders' Show (IBS) in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month.

Students from ODU and HU attended the conference, along with representatives from most of the other teams participating in Solar Decathlon 2011. Jodi Knorowski, a graduate student in civil engineering at ODU, and Jason Cataldo, an architecture student from HU, spoke about their entry, Unit 6 Unplugged, to representatives of the homebuilding industry and other people interested in home design and architecture.

"We received very positive feedback on the construction of the model and on the design of our home," said Knorowski, lead structural engineer for Team Tidewater. "Many people were impressed that we were able to design an affordable, net-zero energy home that was designed to actually 'fit in' with a neighborhood's architecture."

The IBS featured a combination of exhibitors and educational sessions that showcased new ideas and innovations in homebuilding. It was sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders and held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from Jan. 12-16.

Unit 6 Unplugged is envisioned as part of a six-unit, multifamily infill building for a central city site, with energy efficiency features such as a deep, shaded balcony that incorporates operable windows so it can be converted into a sun space in cold weather; super-tight insulation; and solar thermal and electric power collection systems.

Knorowski said that those attending IBS were particularly interested in the convertible sun space that Unit 6 Unplugged will feature - serving as an outdoor living area in the summer, but a "heat sink" in the winter that will passively heat the home.

"A couple who attended the IBS to get ideas for a retirement home commented that they would love for our house to be their retirement home. Another woman asked when she would be able to purchase our home," Knorowski said. "Experienced builders were also able to offer constructive advice and give us ideas on material choices and components that could be used in our home."

The day before the conference, Team Tidewater delivered a 3-D model of the home that HU architecture students had constructed over winter break. Models from every Solar Decathlon team were on display throughout the IBS.

Knorowski said her favorite part of the show was getting to know other Team Tidewater members, along with members of the other Solar Decathlon teams, outside of a working environment. But it was a business trip as well.

"Our participation at the IBS exposed us to potential vendors and sponsors for the project. There were hundreds of vendors with booths set up in the exhibit hall, and almost every conversation I had with a vendor ended with them offering to donate materials to build our house," Knorowski said. "We even had a new construction company ask the entire team for contact information so they could hire us at their expansion site!"

While much work on the project has been done, more work is ahead as the deadline rapidly approaches. Team Tidewater still needs ODU and HU students with experience in electrical engineering, marketing, communications, graphic design, photography and video, and Web development. Interested students can contact Team Tidewater at contact@teamtidewaterva.org.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Solar Decathlon challenges teams of university students to design, build and operate the most affordable, attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

The 20 contest finalists include teams from China, Belgium, Canada and schools from all over the United States. They were chosen by a panel of engineers, scientists and experts from DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

This article was posted on: January 24, 2011

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