More than 50 student volunteers from 22 different majors have joined WSU’s effort to build a solar home as part of the Solar Decathlon competition.
The WSU team, one of 14 teams invited to participate in the international competition, submitted their final design ideas to the Department of Energy this month. They will build the project this summer and are working to raise more than $1 million in cash and in-kind donations needed for the home’s construction, student travel, and project transportation costs. The fundraising is progressing with support from many individuals and companies.
The 10-day competition, which gets underway on Oct. 5, 2017, in Denver, Colorado, requires students to plan and build a 600 to 1,000 square-foot home that receives all its energy needs from the sun. Students compete and are judged in ten categories, including in architecture, market potential, engineering, water, and communications. They also are graded on the home’s health and comfort, energy balance, innovation, and appliance performance. The competition aims to increase public awareness of solar energy and inspire innovative solutions in ecological design.
Darrin Griechen, a faculty member in the School of Design and Construction, is leading the effort. Four students are also leading the project and systems design as well as communication efforts.
The WSU project will be unique in that it is the only project from the Pacific Northwest, a region that gets considerably less sunlight than the rest of the country. The WSU team aims to develop a net-zero solar energy home that integrates and is ready for smart grid technology. The design will be affordable and calls in its design for using urban infill lots, said Griechen. Their design of a village of tiny homes will provide modest individual residences with shared community space and amenities. The design will also recycle water on site, have an adaptive smart home control system, and use composite materials developed at WSU.
Earlier this year, third-year architecture students presented their initial designs for the project at Seattle’s LMN Architects to professionals from several Seattle-area design firms. The students’ designs were also critiqued by Spokane professionals as well as by WSU faculty and graduate students, and a group of students also presented at the Voiland College capstone exposition.
The Solar Decathlon team aims to build on this year’s project to create a holistic, continuing program focused on similar hands-on and real-world experiences for students.
“There is great value in providing hands-on opportunities for students and in finding ways to collaborate with industry,’’ said Griechen. “Our goal is to provide more of these transformational learning experiences.”