Solar Decathlon Competition Heating Up

Georgia Tech's Solar Decathlon team is building more than just a house

While the pace may slow during the summer months on some college campuses, the competition is heating up for the members of Georgia Tech's Solar Decathlon team as they build an energy efficient house for this fall's national competition. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the third Solar Decathlon competition will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Georgia Tech team is up against challengers including two-time champion University of Colorado as well as M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon and Cornell University.

Tech's team is in the construction phase of its house, and the competition has brought out the best from around campus. The College of Architecture is leading the effort, but it is the collaboration between all of the colleges involved (College of Engineering, College of Management, and the College of Sciences) as well as numerous research centers that has this project pulling Georgia Tech resources together.

"No matter how many cross-listed courses, joint appointments, dual-degree programs, minors and certificates we have, nothing creates true interdisciplinary collaboration better than a project like this," said College of Architecture Interim Dean Doug Allen. "No single discipline carries all the knowledge necessary to undertake and successfully complete such a project. The diverse backgrounds of the students have to work together in ways that cannot be duplicated by any other means."

The process of constructing the house and learning to work together is laying the foundation for future projects.

Allen is fond of using an analogy that he tells his students. "The Renaissance did not build the Duomo in Florence, Italy. The Duomo built the Renaissance. Once you have organized yourselves to undertake such a project, the question is what you do for a second act."

"I hope and I believe that this will be true here as well," said Allen. "For the first time in my 30 years at Tech, I have seen Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Architecture, and Building Construction students working together in a sustained relationship. The lasting impact, however, will come from the collaborations developed among the many faculty members across all these disciplines."

The competition grades each house on a variety of elements in construction, marketing and planning. However, one of Georgia Tech's biggest challenges has been the competition for dollars.

"We are still looking for partners to help underwrite the project," said Solar Decathlon Project Manager Chris Jarrett. "Our partners are truly investing in Georgia Tech when they invest in this project. By doing so, it strengthens the bond between the four colleges toward future collaboration and potentially new creative research and innovation."

The U.S. Department of Energy provided each Solar Decathlon team with $100,000 to get started. The actual project cost, including research, design, building materials, construction and transportation of the house to and from Washington, DC. rent, equipment, faculty support and overhead, typically exceeds $600,000 per school. Each school must raise the remaining funds, with either cash or in-kind gifts.

"Team sponsorship means everything," said Jarrett. "It enables Georgia Tech's team to get the job done, to be creative and competitive; it enables them to pursue state-of-the art sustainable design and technology integration."

The team's construction phase will take on a new life in July as the house walls are erected and the shape of the house begins to become visually apparent. However, it's the shape of the team that organizers hope will continue to heat up throughout the summer in the form of new sponsors joining the team.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Georgia Tech Solar Decathlon Team Sponsor, please contact the College of Architecture at 404-894-1096.

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