May 17-23, 2002
Back Issues
Speaking on the Lawn
Reserve a 2002 graduation video
Finding cultural identity in deafness and teaching
Six students get grad school boost

Collins takes on international human rights

Student first at U.Va. to win Scottish fellowship
Sullivan Award winners honored
Healing, unity student’s passions
Award also goes to faculty member
Graduates have been pillars of U.Va. student self-governance
College is time of spiritual, intellectual growth
Adult degree program graduates first students
Graduation: Did you know?
Nursing student answers
9-11 call
Students will have their day in the sun
Graduate rallies volunteers to bring arts to schools
Fifteen dozen cookies and a law degree
Wise student aspires to career helping students in higher ed
The beauty of Antarctica beckons, but graduate’s passion is teaching

Students will have their day in the sun

By Jane Ford

The sun is at the center of collaboration between U.Va. engineering and architecture students.

Together, they are redefining what a solar home can be, collaborating on the design and construction of an 800-square-foot portable house and demonstrating that solar living is affordable, practical and comfortable.

“Our prototype will appeal to people and get them on the solar bandwagon,” said fourth-year architecture student Charlotte Barrows. She joined the solar house team because it offered a chance to put into practice her commitment to sustainable design, an area she plans to work in after graduation.

The computer-generated model of U.Va.’s solar house, being designed and built by engineering and architecture students, is situated on the Mall in Washington, D.C., because that will be the site of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.

The house is U.Va.’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, designed to educate students and the public about the role of energy consumption in daily life and to demonstrate “green,” or sustainable, living.

The competition will take place in September in Washington, D.C., where U.Va. will be joined by 13 other universities.

Decathlon entries will have to pass 10 contests or events that consider a range of architectural and engineering issues. The contestants are challenged to redefine contemporary notions of home size, energy consumption, material selection and investigate innovative technologies to store and use solar energy.

The collaborative venture between the School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science is a natural pairing — both stress environmental concerns as integral to their curricula and research.

More than 60 students participated over the past two years through classes and independent study, and some will continue with the project after graduation.

Architecture student Josh Dannenberg appreciated the way his solar house class was organized and run like a small professional office. “Taking the studio just before graduation provides a perfect segue to going into the working world,” he said.

The students have been responsible for every aspect of the project: design, management, construction, fund-raising and publicity.

They have also created a Web site to provide information and to serve as a research tool for professionals and the public.

One innovative feature of the engineering aspect of the project is an automation system the students are developing themselves. Their plan goes beyond collecting and storing solar energy and includes pre-programming energy use, as well as being able to control the overall energy balance remotely by computer or phone when weather conditions or personal needs change.

“Like all design projects, it’s really tough,” said Benjamin Dorrier, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student who will graduate in December. “You have to think about so many different parts that you need to bring together. There’s no chapter in a book you can go to.”

After the competition, the house will be installed permanently on University Grounds, where it will serve as a guest house for visiting faculty as well as a laboratory for sustainable design and renewable energy for future engineering and architecture students.

Building the solar house prototype carries a hefty price tag — more than $250,000. Students are soliciting donations, both financial and in-kind, from area professionals, businesses, foundations and alumni. Construction is under way and will continue through the summer.


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of the University of Virginia

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