Umass Dartmouth Chosen To Participate In 2005 Solar Decathalon; Kick-Off Event Scheduled

Dartmouth, MA The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy has chosen the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to participate in the 2005 Solar Decathlon. A kick-off event was held Wednesday, October 22, 2003 at 1:30 p.m. in room 308 (third floor) of the UMass Dartmouth Foster Administration building. The UMass Dartmouth Chancellor, the Executive Director of Washington D.C. Habitat for Humanity, a representative of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, a Department of Energy representative, representatives of national sponsors for the Solar Decathlon (such as Home Depot), and elected officials were in attendance.

Dartmouth, MA—The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy has chosen the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to participate in the 2005 Solar Decathlon. A kick-off event was held Wednesday, October 22, 2003 at 1:30 p.m. in room 308 (third floor) of the UMass Dartmouth Foster Administration building. The UMass Dartmouth Chancellor, the Executive Director of Washington D.C. Habitat for Humanity, a representative of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, a Department of Energy representative, representatives of national sponsors for the Solar Decathlon (such as Home Depot), and elected officials were in attendance. 

The Solar Decathlon is a Department of Energy event in which colleges and universities compete to design and build the best solar powered house. UMass Dartmouth, one of 20 teams selected to participate, will build two houses, which will be donated to Habitat for Humanity following the competition. The finished products will be homes that feature the best of sustainable building practices, many of which will be standard practice in the near future. The house will also have a stand-alone electrical system; the goal is to create a solar house that can maintain all of the elements of the American lifestyle. 

“UMass Dartmouth was the only university in Massachusetts invited to participate in this prestigious national competition. Our selection by the DOE clearly demonstrates the importance of innovative teaching and research excellence in higher education. The inter-disciplinary approach to involving students and faculty that Dr. Lemay and his team brings to this project is a great example of what the educational experience at UMass Dartmouth is all about,” said Chancellor Jean MacCormack. 

As was the case in the first competition, held in 2002 on the National Mall between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument, the houses will be limited to an 800 square feet maximum footprint, with at least 450 square feet of conditioned living space, and use only sunlight for power. 

The UMass Dartmouth contest house will be built at a Washington D.C. Home Depot parking lot with the assistance of Washington D.C. Habitat for Humanity volunteers, and then transported to the National Mall on a flatbed trailer for the Solar Decathlon. After the competition, it will then be moved and installed at its permanent site in Washington at the Habitat for Humanity complex. By avoiding the costs associated with transporting a house to the National Mall from Dartmouth, the UMass Dartmouth team will be able to build and donate two houses for the price of one Contest House. 
“This project is a delightful mix of architecture, engineering and community service,” said Dr. Gerald Lemay, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the UMass Dartmouth Solar Decathlon project leader. “The Contest House will look good, it will work, and it will have a useful humanitarian purpose.” 

Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with people in need to build and renovate decent, affordable housing. The houses are then sold to those in need at no profit and with no interest charged. Volunteers provide most of the labor, and individual and corporate donors provide money and materials to build Habitat houses. Partner families themselves invest hundreds of hours of labor--"sweat equity"--into building their homes and the homes of others. Their mortgage payments go into a revolving pool called “Fund for Humanity” that is used to build more houses. 

“Habitat for Humanity is very interested in solar energy and energy-efficient home designs,” said Lemay. “An implementation of the UMass Dartmouth design could appear in future Habitat homes to provide an innovative, energy-efficient home that is affordable to live in.” 

Prior to the national competition, an 8X15 test house will be designed and built by UMass Dartmouth engineering and design students on the University campus. Early in the two-year project, this test house will be “rapidly built” on campus, allowing the students to hone the complimentary skills of designing and building a home on a small scale. Local construction professionals will be involved in the larger buildings for this project. The test house and its technologies will prototype the “grid-in-the-box” power source that will be used for the grid intertied Contest House during the competition at the National Mall. 

The second phase of the project will involve building a three-bedroom house with smart ventilation, tight construction and photovoltaic (PV) power. This house will allow the team to develop and learn net-zero-energy building practices pioneered in Tennessee by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Loudon County Habitat for Humanity that will work in the Massachusetts climate. This will also ensure that the construction is consistent with the sustainable idea of building locally. 

Students in the project are now taking a course called “The Sustainable House: Architectural Design.” This course is team-taught by a licensed engineer and a licensed architect. In this course, students have the experience of multi-disciplinary education where the artist and engineer together create architectural designs, as well as integrating “green” sustainable thinking into the UMass Dartmouth coursework. Additionally, students will learn valuable lessons in transforming their designs into real construction documents that have to satisfy code requirements when they take the follow-up course in the next semester called The Sustainable House: Construction Practices. They will have the opportunity to participate in the building and testing process of code-compliant houses. 

According to Solar Decathlon organizers, “There is no better way to get cutting-edge technology into the minds and hands of tomorrow's engineers, architects, scientists, and entrepreneurs than to give them experience with that technology today. Positive academic experiences affect the decisions students make about the career path they will choose, and student competitions are an excellent way to engage young minds in problem solving beyond the classroom and the laboratory.” This event is designed to attract students from a variety of academic disciplines—architecture, engineering, the sciences, communications, business, education and others—and to encourage them to work together to gain hands-on experience with the process of creating an energy-efficient, completely solar-powered house. 

BP Solar, Home Depot, Electronic Data Systems, the American Institute of Architects and the National Renewable Energy Lab are national sponsors for this event. Each team is responsible for raising all of the funds needed to compete. The teams have two years from the request for proposals to the time of the competition. Once the teams arrive on the Mall, they have nine days to assemble the homes before the first tours. 

The goals of the Solar Decathlon are to illustrate how solar energy can improve mankind's quality of life and to teach the solar decathletes and the public about how energy is used in their daily lives. It demonstrates that market-ready technologies exist that can meet the energy requirements of our daily activities by tapping into the sun's power. In addition it proves that we can create a beautiful structure in which to live, work, and play. 

The other Solar Decathlon 2005 selected teams are: California Polytechnic Institute (San Luis Obispo), Carnegie Mellon University, Concordia University, Cornell University, Crowder College, Florida International University, New York Institute of Technology, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, University of Colorado (Denver and Boulder), University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Missouri (Rolla and Rolla Technical Institute), University of Puerto Rico (Mayaguez), University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Rhode Island School of Design and Washington State University. 

For more information about UMass Dartmouth’s participation in the 2005 Solar Decathlon or to pledge financial support, contact Gerald Lemay at (508) 999-8535, glemay@umassd.edu 


News and Public Information