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ODU/HU Team's Solar Decathlon House Arrives on Campus

Now it's real.

For two years, members of the joint Old Dominion University/Hampton University Solar Decathlon team have been working on designing a solar-powered house from the ground up for a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

On Wednesday, May 18, the house that Team Tidewater designed arrived in four giant pieces on the ODU campus. A crowd of team members, volunteers and curious onlookers gathered as a giant crane lifted the three modular home parts and the roof off of flatbed trucks and onto a concrete foundation across 48th Street from the Student Recreation Center.

The process began shortly after 7 a.m. and continued throughout the morning.

Members of Team Tidewater will spend the rest of the spring and summer doing second-phase construction on the house, 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. The student teams that entered the competition were challenged to design, build and operate the most affordable, attractive, effective and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

Oktay Baysal, dean of ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, said projects such as the Solar Decathlon are incredibly important for student empowerment. "When they see their efforts resulting in something tangible like this - a campaign that can help tackle a problem like energy efficiency - it helps make students better," Baysal said.

HU architecture professor David Peronnet said a day like Wednesday is a reward for the students' effort these past two years.

"I think it's definitely a morale booster to see the house arrive," he said. "Most of the students have been working on this project and haven't seen anything, from a physical standpoint, to represent all of their hard work. Now they do."

But Peronnet added, if this was a hockey game, there would still be at least a period left, because the competition itself is still five months away.

The other faculty members working on the project are Mujde Erten-Unal, ODU associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Stella Bondi, ODU assistant professor of civil engineering technology; and HU architecture professor Mason Andrews.

There's lots to do between now and the fall. Now that the house has arrived on campus, Team Tidewater 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").

All day Wednesday, John Glover watched as the pieces of the house were moved by crane and pieced together at the ODU site. An engineer who works as a general contractor with Tidewater Custom Modular Homes Inc., Glover has volunteered his time to oversee the breaking down of the house at the end of the summer, its reassembly at the Solar Decathlon event in Washington and then its trip back to Norfolk after the competition.

Glover said the excitement at the site on Wednesday "takes me right back to our own design efforts at VMI," where he went to school.

"We hear all the time what our young people aren't doing, and aren't capable of. It's so nice to be a part of a project like this, with bright, talented students working as hard as they are. They deserve this."

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.

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 20, 2011

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