WPI Selected as Finalist in the Solar Decathlon Competition

WPI has been selected as finalist in the Solar Decathlon China 2013, an award-winning program that challenges university teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses.

WPI has been selected as finalist in the Solar Decathlon China 2013 partnering with Ghent University-Belgium and NYU Poly as team BEMANY.  Team BEMANY was selected among 23 international teams to compete in this competition.

The Solar Decathlon Competition is an award-winning program that challenges university teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy sponsored the first Solar Decathlon competition in 2002 in the US and biannually since 2005. The Solar Decathlon-Europe was held in Europe in 2010 and 2012.  The Solar Decathlon China-2013, co-sponsored by the China NEA and the US DOE will be the first time the competition will be held in Asia.  Our three-university team, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Ghent University-Belgium and NYU Poly, will design and construct a net-zero solar powered house in Worcester, Massachusetts.  The solar house will then be transported to Datong China, reconstructed and showcased to approximately 500,000 visitors in August 2013. We believe that our team will produce a competitive solar house with our innovative design, modular composite structure, advanced phase changing materials and passive cooling and heating approach.

The main design goal for this project is to accomplish an affordable, attractive and effective zero energy house that entices expo visitors to become aware of the zero-energy housing market. This goal will be accomplished by focusing on design principles that SIMPLIFY and LOWER the COST of zero-energy houses.  Our house ‘Solatrium’ promotes an atmosphere that emphasizes visual continuity between the indoor and outdoor environments. The floor plan is open and airy and offers visual connections between the various spaces and the outdoors. Large portions of the external walls are in glass and a large atrium opens the building towards the sky. The design will be optimized to assure that the heating load is reduced during winter time by drawing solar energy directly into the house. When it is warm outside, more shading is provided and air is allowed to pass through the atrium cooling the building directly by means of natural breeze.  One of the challenges is to avoid the use of dedicated HVAC system. The photovoltaic system will be integrated into the roof surface. The house is made from lightweight composite materials that are easy to handle and transport. The finished floor area will be approximately 1500 sq. ft.  with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a kitchen.

Team BEMANY consists of approximately 30 students and faculty across the three partner universities and across many disciplines including Architecture and Architectural Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Fire Protection and Communications and Arts Majors. Our three university team will partner with the Worcester Technical High School during the construction of the house in Worcester.  Students from the WTHS will assist with areas related to carpentry, plumbing, electrical and HVAC installation. The solar decathlon project challenges students to solve real problems that help societal needs, promote collaborative learning and develop skills that are required for a technological and innovation-based economy.

WPI is excited to be a leader in this competition and to benefit from the national and international exposure offered by it.  The Solar Decathlon Competition China 2013 is well aligned with WPI’s project based education and global projects program, which provides WPI students an opportunity to be become global citizens that promote sustainability and energy efficiency.

We invite sponsors to support this project by contacting Karen Bean at kbean@wpi.edu or call 508-831-4169.   

December 5, 2012

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