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ODU/HU Solar Decathlon Entry to Be Assembled on Campus May 18

People on the Old Dominion University campus will see an interesting sight on Wednesday, May 18. It's not every day you get to see a house delivered.

Members of the joint ODU/Hampton University Solar Decathlon team have been working two years for this moment. The energy-efficient house that the team designed from the ground up will be delivered in four giant pieces to the campus - and moved with a large crane onto its designated space on the lawn across 48th Street from the Student Recreation Center.

There, members of the Solar Decathlon team will spend the rest of the spring and summer doing second-phase construction on the home, called Unit 6 Unplugged, to get it ready to disassemble and relocate again to the Solar Decathlon event in Washington, D.C., in the fall. Teams that entered the competition, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, were challenged to design, build and operate the most affordable, attractive, effective and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

"This is an incredibly exciting time for us," said John Whitelaw, Team Tidewater leader and a doctoral student in environmental engineering at ODU. "Seeing the tangible product of our team's hard work arrive on campus will be even more motivation for us to finish this project strongly."

The home's three modules were constructed by a builder in Pennsylvania. They're scheduled to arrive on campus via flatbed trucks Tuesday night. On Wednesday, a crane will lift these sections of the Solar Decathlon unit off of the trucks and onto the concrete foundation blocks that were poured earlier this spring. After the pieces are fitted together, the roof will then be lifted off one of the trucks and placed on the top.

The process is expected to start shortly after 7 a.m. and continue throughout the day.

Noel Harrison, HU student architect and marketing director for Team Tidewater, said the group has a lofty expectation to live up to. Harrison said Team Tidewater participated in the International Builders' Show in Florida earlier this year, along with the other Solar Decathlon teams, and brought a three-dimensional model of its design for display.

"The builders and designers attending the show told us that they thought we would win, that our design was the best. Now it's time to go show that," Harrison said.

The campus construction site will be a beehive of activity in the coming weeks and months. Several key supporters of Team Tidewater are helping bring the project to life through donations of money and materials, including Tidewater Insulators, Superior Roofing Systems, Warwick Plumbing and Heating, Henselstone Window and Door Systems, and Solar Services.

Whitelaw said "green" builder Nick Shawyer has been an invaluable asset to Team Tidewater as well, volunteering his services as an environmental construction expert. "He's one of the people who's really leading the charge on affordable green building in Hampton Roads," Whitelaw said.

There has also been considerable support from the campus community. The construction site for Unit 6 Unplugged is next to ODU's Child Development Center. Mujde Erten-Unal, faculty adviser for the Solar Decathlon team and an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at ODU, said arrangements have been made to do the construction work a safe distance from the Child Development Center, and that officials there agree that the neighborly arrangement will work.

"The support we've gotten from all over campus has been incredible, in fact," Erten-Unal said. She noted that ODU's Office of Facilities Management has gone the extra mile, doing things like pruning trees adjacent to the site where Unit 6 Unplugged's phase-two build will occur, to allow a crane to move the modules into place.

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 HU's architecture school came about two years ago, with the goal of entering the Solar Decathlon 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, New Zealand and across North America.

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.

There's lots to do between now and the fall. After the house arrives on campus, Team Tidewater members will begin the process of doing the finish work, including installation of the solar collection and other engineered systems. Then, early in August, the house will be disassembled and trucked in pieces to Washington, where it will be reassembled on the Solar Decathlon competition site. During the weeklong event (Sept. 23 to Oct. 2), thousands of tourists, architects and engineers are expected to 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").

Team Tidewater still needs ODU and HU students with experience in electrical engineering, marketing, communications, graphic design, photography and video, and Web development to help with the final work on the project. Interested students should contact Team Tidewater at contact@teamtidewaterva.org.

This article was posted on: May 13, 2011

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