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After Months of Hard Work, Team Tidewater Puts Out the Welcome Mat at Solar Decathlon Event

Looking around the Solar Decathlon site on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, the members of Team Tidewater saw net-zero energy homes constructed by teams from throughout the world. New Zealand's entry, First Light, is next door. Teams from Florida and New Jersey are just meters away.

The Old Dominion University engineering students and Hampton University architecture students who comprise Team Tidewater could only shake their heads at how far they've come.

"It's an incredible feeling just to be here," said Team Tidewater leader John Whitelaw, an environmental engineering doctoral student at ODU. "You think of all the work that went into the home, from the design to the construction, to taking the home apart and moving it here to reassemble it. So many people had a part in making this a reality."

This week, visitors from around the world will tour the home, designed and constructed by Team Tidewater members. Conceived in a design studio just south of the ODU campus, it was built this past spring and summer on a site across the street from the Student Recreation Center.

Team Tidewater is one of 19 finalist schools in the U.S. Department of Energy's 2011 Solar Decathlon. The group will face stiff competition from teams like the University of Maryland and its WaterShed entry, a stylish loft-style home that features a wetland incorporated into the design, and the Re_home from the University of Illinois - designed to be a pre-assembled, net-zero energy modular home that can be located in areas affected by natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Team Tidewater's home, beautifully decorated and finished, fits right in among the top entries in the competition. Visitors to the home marveled at the design and features of Unit 6 Unplugged, as the home is called, especially its innovative "sun space," a balcony that can be enclosed from the elements by simply lifting a single, motorized window.

HU professor David Peronnet said the frantic, weeklong construction at the Solar Decathlon site was incredibly hard work, but fun as well. "You'd look across at the other designs, wave hello and see these fascinating structures take shape."

Jordan Smith a Hampton student who served as lead architect on the project, was part of a crew putting in long days getting the home through inspection by Department of Energy personnel, and ready for the competition. "We were fortunate. It went well so we were actually able to get ahead of schedule," Smith said. That meant the team members had time to add some nice finishing touches to the home, which included putting planters around the front of the porch filled with native southeast Virginia plants.

The teams had seven days from the time they received their plot at the Solar Decathlon site to get the homes ready for the competition. Whitelaw said ODU graduate environmental engineering student Jodi Knorowski did an incredible job overseeing the entire operation of taking the home down from its campus construction site, loading it onto trucks, shipping it to DC and assembling it in less than a week for the competition.

"Jodi was in charge of that entire process, and to have our home pass inspection on the first try, seventh out of the teams participating, is a fantastic achievement," Whitelaw said.

He also said the enterprise wouldn't have been possible without the passion and dedication of the team's four faculty advisers: Peronnet, HU architecture professor Mason Andrews, and ODU's Stella Bondi, assistant professor of engineering technology, and Mujde Erten-Unal (the project PI), associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

"These four faculty members did everything for us, providing their time, their encouragement, using their own credit cards to purchase things the team needed. We could not have done this without them, and they were maintaining their regular academic load at the same time. We can't thank them enough," Whitelaw said.

Other team members who knocked themselves out to make Unit 6 Unplugged a reality include, from ODU, Holly-Ann Hillard, Joshua Davis, Ann Hageman, Christopher May, John Purdue, Wayne Laustsen, Hamami Youssef and Kevin Brinker.

HU members that have been integral to the success of Team Tidewater are Noel Harrison, Dana Cook, Danielle Dunn, Danielle Forrest, Elbert Whitfield, Kenneth Rubio, Kevin Stiff, Lewis Fisher, Maria Derbeneva, Mark Matel, Paul McGraw, Robert Stackhouse and Syreeta Brooks.

Wednesday and Thursday of last week, before throngs of visitors arrive at the site, were a chance for team members to get to know each other, and look at each other's designs.

"We're here to the see the neighbors!" a visitor from Team New Zealand called out as a group of Kiwi team members walked next door to check out Team Tidewater's design. The New Zealanders - whose striking First Light design incorporates insulation made of sheep wool - will be the guests of Team Tidewater at a dinner-and-movie night during the week.

That's one of the 10 competitions each home participates in during Solar Decathlon - an evening of entertaining another team to demonstrate the functionality of the home. Other judged contests include marketability, engineering and energy performance. The Department of Energy is also running an online poll to select the People's Choice winner among the 19 Solar Decathlon finalists. To vote, go to: http://www.solardecathlon.gov/poll/pca/pca_register.php.

The first of the awards will be presented Tuesday, Sept. 27, with the grand prize for Solar Decathlon 2011 being presented on Saturday, Oct. 1.

This article was posted on: September 29, 2011

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