Going Green
volume 8, issue 1


“Never doubt
that a small
group of thoughtful, committed
citizens can change
the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

— Margaret Mead



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YWCA Cape Fear:  26th Annual Women of Achievement Awards

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Solar Decathlon

Washington, DC

October, 2007

Twenty teams of architectural students descended on the nation’s capitol last October to compete in the bi-annual Solar Decathlon.  Here are some of the photos we didn't have room to include in our article. >>read the article (Click to download the complete article, volume 1, issue 2, in .pdf format). Learn all about these projects by visiting individual team Web sites: www.solardecathlon.gov/teams.cfm

  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Twenty Solar Decathlon entries were assembled in two rows along the Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Some members of Cape Fear Building Alliance and friends toured the Solar Decathlon. From left, Valerie Robertson, Suny Kumar, Gordon Singletary, Elise Rocks, Ari Rapport, Tracy Rapport, and Carl Lorenz.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Innovations in allowing daylight into the homes included this entry from Georgia Tech, which abandoned the traditional under-kitchen-sink enclosed cabinet in favor of a floor-to-ceiling window.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Each Decathlon team was issued an electric car upon arrival; one of the ten Decathlon contests was to charge the car with electricity generated by the house; the winner was the team that could drive their car the farthest.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Gordon, Elise, and Carl examine the entry from the University of Texas at Austin. South-facing windows designed to
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Georgia Institute of Technology's walls--two layers of polycarbonate surrounding an aerogel filler--allow filtered light to enter through the walls. Rooftop solar panels tilt to follow the sun, providing maximum power generation while shading the roof from direct sunlight.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Germany's entry, from Technische Universitat Darmstadt, was a model of compact use of space, with a bed that folded up under the living room floor. Plywood dining room furniture was set with elegant table settings for the tour.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Architectural students from each team were on hand to demonstrate and explain all the workings of their houses. Here, a German team member shows the ease with which the floor compartments can be accessed.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Germany's wooden kitchen table nested over the kitchen space when not in use; the oven was an innovative design in which a casserole placed on the metal platform would be raised into the cooking compartment.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: The Universidad de Puerto Rico team created a hydroponic garden on an exterior wall of the house. Lettuce is grown hydroponically in a clear rack fed by gray water from the pool. (The Santa Clara house can be seen through the garden wall.)
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: The Puerto Rican entry collected graywater--water left over from washing dishes, laundry, and bathing--in a decorative pool along the front entrance. The house was named
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Blenda Martineu explains that the project from Puerto Rico had to be light in weight in order to be shipped over land and sea to reach the competition. The team used lightweight Extren fiberglass material for I-beams and columns-as strong as steel but much lighter.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Germany's Darmstadt house was surrounded by computer-operated louvers; those facing the sun were fitted with photovoltaic panels to supplement the solar panels on the roof. It was so sunny that the team commented they were powering all systems and still throwing away a lot of electricity.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: The German house had phase-change materials in the ceiling and north and south walls. Tiny capsules of paraffin embedded in the walls changed from a solid to a liquid when heated, providing an efficient and lightweight way to store energy within the home's walls.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: One of the ten contests assessed how well students communicated their project ideas and technical details to the public, during tours of the house as well as on student Web sites designed for their project. Here a German student explains the use of photovoltaics on the roof and louvers.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: A student explains the mechanics of creating and storing hot water with his house's thermal collectors, as well as the provisions for keeping the stored water from achieving too high a temperature.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Walls in the Puerto Rican house were made of Kalwall, an insulated translucent siding product that softens and diffuses daylight entering the house. Plexwood, a recycled wood, was used for flooring and walls.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Student teams were judged on how well their houses incorporated universal design principles. This bathroom in Georgia Tech's house was designed for easy access by a person using a wheelchair, as was the open floor plan of the main living space.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Carnegie Mellon's
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: The Kansas Project Solar House, a joint effort of Kansas State University and University of Kansas, was built of structural insulated panels. This allowed the team to put the assembled house on a single truck to drive to Washington. (A second truck carried the solar panels and other components.)
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: The University of Missouri - Rolla team incorporated automated systems in this year's entry. Sensors indoors and out control air conditioning, lighting, and windows. The system
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Each house was required to encompass principles of universal design, or design appropriate for people in various stages of life and with varying degrees of mobility. The entries were often creative about incorporating gardens and design elements into their entry ramps.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Texas A&M invented not just a house, but a system for building green homes. Their groHome concept is a modularized,
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: The entry from Santa Clara University adopted the Mission style of architecture used on the rest of the university campus. A unique sustainability meter quantifies the power used for heating and cooling and measures the amount of carbon emissions the house saves.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Santa Clara's beautiful interior included exposed bamboo I-beams in the living room, a variety of tiles in the kitchen and bath, made of different kinds of recycled glass; bamboo flooring. Interior finishes were estimated to be 95% renewable, recyclable, or recycled.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: The competition entry brought by two-time Decathlon champion University of Colorado - Boulder was a complete 700 sq. ft .house in its own right, but will serve as the core of a larger 2100 sq. ft. house upon its return to Boulder. Built of modified shipping containers, it's easy to ship.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Although most houses included all their solar collectors - thermal and PV - on the face or roof of the house, Georgia Tech chose a garden setting for this array of evacuated tubes, a solar collector used to heat water for the house.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Carl Lorenz recorded impressions of the interior while Elise Rocks read up on the details.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: Solar entries were arrayed on the Mall between the Washington Monument, seen here in the distance, and the Capitol. Larger-than-anticipated crowds visited the solar village, eager to tour these state-of-the-art houses, powered entirely by sun power.
  • Solar Decathlon 2007: On the busiest days, crowds were willing to wait 45 minutes or more to visit each house. The Capitol is visible in the distance, and the tower of the Smithsonian Castle appears at right.
     Click thumbnail image (above) to enlarge or tiny white box (below) to choose another row:

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volume 8, issue 1
Cape Fear's Going Green