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Students' Solar Decathlon House Disassembled for Transport to Nation's Capital

It was quite the spectacle.

For six months, members of Team Tidewater, the joint Old Dominion University/Hampton University student team in the 2011 Solar Decathlon finals, have been lovingly constructing their experimental home on the ODU campus across the street from the Student Recreation Center.

Then in a few hours on Thursday morning, the home, known as Unit 6 Unplugged, was gone.

A giant crane lifted the pieces of the modular house onto flatbed trucks. Overnight on Tuesday, Sept. 13, the trucks will convoy to Washington, D.C., where the home will be hurriedly reconstructed, in time for the U.S. Department of Energy's 2011 Solar Decathlon.

"It's amazing how fast the time has gone," said John Whitelaw, Team Tidewater project manager and an ODU environmental engineering doctoral student. "It's a testament to the hard work of a large number of people that we've gotten to this point today."

As when the home arrived on campus in the spring, a small crowd gathered to watch a crane lift the three pieces and the roof onto separate trucks. As a modular home, it's meant to be easily reassembled on the Solar Decathlon site in Washington, D.C.

Mason Andrews, professor of architecture at Hampton University and one of the faculty advisers for Team Tidewater, said Thursday's experience was unique.

"It's a curious set of events," she said. "It means we're getting closer to the end, and we have spent so much energy making it look finished.

"At the same time, there's a certain sense of sentiment about the process. It's two years the team has been working on this."

The student teams that entered the 2011 Solar Decathlon were challenged to design, build and operate the most affordable, attractive, effective and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Team Tidewater is one of 20 finalists in the competition, among a group that includes teams from China, New Zealand, Belgium, Canada and across the United States.

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").

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: September 9, 2011

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