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Local Construction Professionals and Builders Tour ODU/HU Solar Decathlon House

More than 100 construction professionals, builders and students braved hot, humid conditions to tour the Solar Decathlon house being constructed on the Old Dominion University campus Tuesday, July 26.

The home, known as Unit 6 Unplugged, is the brainchild of Team Tidewater, a group of ODU engineering students and Hampton University architecture students, who were selected to compete in the 2011 finals of the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition, which will feature the designs from 20 schools around the world during a weeklong event this fall in Washington, D.C.

The tour was organized by the Hampton Roads Green Building Council (HRGBC), after conversations started a few months ago with Team Tidewater construction manager and ODU environmental engineering graduate student Christopher May.

"I'm a member of the Hampton Roads Green Building Council, and they have these monthly events in the community for networking and to provide educational opportunities about the latest in green building," May said.

His involvement with Team Tidewater convinced May that a tour of the house would be an ideal activity for the HRGBC. "We're made for each other, really. HRGBC does a great job in creating excitement around green building innovations and initiatives in Hampton Roads, and all the professionals here today can see them in action."

As they made their way through the Solar Decathlon home, the HRGBC members took notes about the innovations in the home, asking questions of the ODU and HU students.

Noel Harrison, a Hampton architecture student who is the marketing director for Team Tidewater, said the tour was invaluable. "It's like a dry run for us. We get to practice our presentations, because when we're in Washington, thousands of people will go through the house every day."

Construction work on Unit 6 Unplugged, which is located across from the Student Recreation Center on 48th Street, is almost complete. After a VIP event on Aug. 29, the house will be disassembled and trucked in pieces to the nation's capital, where it will be reassembled on the Solar Decathlon competition site.

From Sept. 23 to Oct. 2, thousands of tourists, Washington-area residents, 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").

Greg Simon, secretary on the HRGBC board of directors, said the council applauds the efforts of the HU and ODU students.

"There's great interest in this kind of work," he said. "The best thing about an event like today is it shows our members that there's a local team, representing local schools, participating in a prestigious, worldwide event like the Solar Decathlon. It can help our members look at ODU and Hampton a little differently."

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.

This article was posted on: July 25, 2011

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