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U.Va. Students Hold Construction Kick Off For Solar House Competition Sponsored By U.S. Department Of Energy

March 25, 2002-- A team of University of Virginia students has moved out of the classroom and into the construction phase of an innovative solar-powered house.

To celebrate, U.Va.’s Solar Decathlon team will hold a kick-off event April 4 at the building site in Crozet.

The project is part of the 2002 Solar Decathlon, a competition sponsored by the Department of Energy. The contest culminates in September when students from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and School of Engineering and Applied Science will gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to display their design, which uses energy generated entirely by the sun to power and control all the functions of the house. The challenge of the competition is to build a self-sufficient, 800-square-foot house. The U.Va. team has designed a climate-responsive home that will adapt to any environment and serve as an example of sustainable design principles.

The collaborative venture pairs the School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Both stress environmental concerns as integral to their curricula and research.

Since the spring of 2001, a team of architecture, landscape architecture and planning students have been working with students in the mechanical, electrical, civil, systems, computer science, and chemical engineering fields. They are resolving the house design using 3-D computer modeling and thermal dynamic simulation in the preparation of construction drawings and details of the house. The team's advisors are Assistant Professor of Architecture John Quale and Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Paxton Marshall.

For graduate student and architecture project manager Adam Ruffin, the project provides more than design experience. "In school we have a limited amount of time, so we don’t get to fully experience the different phases of design," he said. "But this project gives us the opportunity to work with engineers and adapt our knowledge to designing a real house."

The students are enthusiastic about the practical aspects of the project. "This is real-life stuff. The process of doing this house would be hard to simulate in the lab," said Ben Dorrier, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major.

The completed house will be moved to the National Mall in September, where a panel of architects and engineers will judge the entries. U.Va. will be joined in the three-week competition by 13 other universities, including Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas at Austin. All entries will be open for public tours. Portions of the event will be broadcast live on ABC-TV's Good Morning America.

After the event, U.Va.’s entry will be permanently installed on University Grounds to be used as a guest house for visiting faculty. The team also intends to use the house as a working laboratory for sustainable design and renewable energies, and offer tours to K-12 students from around Virginia.

The April 4 kick-off event will begin at 4 p.m. at the team's temporary construction site at the former Con-Agra facility in Crozet, Va. Team members will be available to discuss the project and drawings, and models of the design will be on display. Directions are attached.

Additional information about the project is available on the Web at

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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