College Students Compete to Create Best Solar-Powered Home

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Ana Toledo of the Stevens Institute of Technology prepares a meal in the team's Solar Decathlon house for students from neighboring house entries. Photo: Eric Grigorian/U.S. Department of Energy

Ana Toledo of the Stevens Institute of Technology prepares a meal in the team’s Solar Decathlon house for students from neighboring house entries. Photo: Eric Grigorian/U.S. Department of Energy

Years in the Making

Alia Taqi, an Arizona State University graduate student, heads up her school’s team, which also includes students from the University of New Mexico. Like competitors from other schools, Taqi’s team has been working on their Solar Decathlon house since January 2012, when the DOE announced the list of schools whose proposals were accepted.

“We all came into the project understanding how the competition was going to be and what to expect,” says Taqi, who’s working toward two master’s degrees: one in architecture, the other in science of the built environment. Each team plans, designs, engineers and partially builds the home on or near their respective campuses. They then haul the homes on trailers to the site of the competition, which is currently being held at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. (The competition runs from October 3 to 13.)

What has pleasantly surprised Taqi, she says, is “finally seeing the house in a completed stage, and seeing the hard work you put into it over the last few days. It’s also been rewarding to share our thoughts and concepts with the people who are walking by and sharing it with the juries.”

Juries, which include judges who are experts in architecture, engineering and other professions, will grade the homes based on:

  • Architecture
  • Marketability
  • Engineering
  • Communications
  • Affordability
  • Comfort
  • Hot water
  • Appliances
  • Home entertainment
  • Energy balance

Next page: Working with the sun

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