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Team Tidewater's Solar Decathlon House to Be Built on Campus Site

For two years, the team members for the joint Old Dominion University/Hampton University entry in the 2011 Solar Decathlon toiled away quietly, meeting in on-campus offices, doing work at their makeshift design studio in a house near the ODU campus.

But their project, which has challenged them to design, build and operate the most affordable, attractive, effective and energy-efficient solar-powered house, will soon be out in the open - literally.

On Friday, a concrete foundation was poured on an ODU campus site across from the Student Recreation Center on 48th Street. That's where the Team Tidewater entry, known as Unit 6 Unplugged, will actually take shape.

"This is a very exciting milestone signifying the beginning of construction of Unit 6 for the Solar Decathlon competition. Students are going to see things happening on campus," said Mujde Erten-Unal, faculty adviser for the Solar Decathlon team and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

The other faculty members working on the project are Stella Bondi, ODU assistant professor of civil engineering technology, and HU architecture professors Mason Andrews and David Peronnet.

The union of ODU's engineering school and the architecture school from Hampton came about two years ago, with the goal of entering the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) competition, which attracts teams from around the globe.

The ODU/HU team was selected as one of 20 finalists, along with college and university teams from Belgium, China and across North America.

This collaboration between engineers and architects has led to some fascinating learning opportunities for every student on the Solar Decathlon team, said Team Tidewater director John Whitelaw, a doctoral student in environmental engineering at ODU.

Now, after working many a late night, the team members are celebrating the actual construction of what they've been planning for two years.

"This moment, as we pour concrete for the temporary foundations for Unit 6, is when everything becomes real," Whitelaw said. "We've been working away at the design and setting up the logistics for months; now we finally start building the house. There are many more hurdles to get over in the months to come, but this marks the beginning of the construction phase and the final push toward the competition."

There's lots of work to do between now and the fall. After the main modules of the house are constructed at another site, they will arrive on the ODU campus in late April, where Team Tidewater members will finish work and install the solar collection and other engineered systems. Then, early in August, it will be disassembled, and brought in pieces to Washington, D.C., where it will be reassembled on the Solar Decathlon competition site. During the weeklong event (Sept. 23 to Oct. 2), which will see some team members actually stay in the home, thousands of tourists, architects and engineers will visit Unit 6 Unplugged, along with a panel of experts, who will judge all of the homes in 10 categories (hence the name "Solar Decathlon").

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.

Whitelaw said Team Tidewater, representing an urban area, specifically wanted to create an urban, high-density design, as opposed to a detached, single-family dwelling.

"The Decathlon is all about conserving energy and sustainability, and multifamily housing is a more efficient and sustainable approach that reduces travel energy, saves heating and cooling costs, promotes community and minimizes suburban encroachment on farmland. Being selected as finalists allows us to make our case for sustainable design to America and the world, and will put our two universities on center stage in this emergent field," Whitelaw said.

While much work on the project has been done, more work is ahead as the deadline 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 should contact Team Tidewater at contact@teamtidewaterva.org.


This article was posted on: March 10, 2011

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