Building with Purpose

Putting Theory into Practice for Sustainability

Solar Decathlon China is a fitting challenge for WPI’s core tradition of combining knowledge with a hands-on approach.  Building the Solatrium requires students to solve real problems, answer societal needs, learn collaboratively, and develop the skills to succeed in an innovation-based economy.

In one of 22 teams, WPI, Ghent University-Belgium, and NYU-Poly are working together to build a home that is affordable, attractive, and effective at providing its own power from solar energy. The design chosen harkens back to a traditional Chinese atrium structure, updated with simple, attractive living areas—and wherever practical, new materials will be used. Every detail  is important in the award-winning and highly-competitive Solar Decathlon, all centered on creating a home that produces as much power as its inhabitants need for appliances, hot water, and comfort. Some team members will accompany the Solatrium to China for the exhibition week, when a variety of aspects are judged and measured.

Easy, Efficient Assembly from Innovative Components

WPI’s formula for success includes new technology that incorporates phase-changing material (PCM) in concrete floor tiles to moderate temperatures. Lightweight insulating paneling is a composite structure of polyurethane foam sandwiched between sheets of glass-reinforced polymer resin. It needs no finishing, will be easy to assemble and reassemble, and preserves passive cooling and heating.

This is ideal for our project-based Architectural Engineering program, where multidisciplinary teams tackle all aspects of energy efficiency, sustainable design, construction, and communication.

Tahar El-Korchi
Professor, Dept. Head of Civil & Environmental Engineering
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Project Information:
Tahar El-Korchi, PhD
Civil & Environmental Engineering
CEE Department Head, Professor

Play a Part:
Karen L. Bean
University Advancement
Director of Academic Advancement, Special Projects