Georgia Tech Solar Decathlon

by Pamela Goode

Solar Decath on the Move

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s entry to Solar Decathlon 2007 arrives on the mall in DC at midnight. An initial team of 15 students is already in place, cramming carbs and sleep bytes in preparation for the intense leveling effort that begins as soon as the semi wheels touch grass. And speaking of semi’s, the twelve wheel tractor trailer was equipped with two spare axles for the hauling of this two-lane-wide load; halfway home, the truck had already blown eleven tires carrying the 48,000 pound house. Life in the fast lane: not always so fast.

The Department of Energy selected 20 schools to participate in the international competition, providing each with $100,000 seed money, estimated to be about one third of the final cost. Georgia Tech is the only school from the SouthEast. Over one hundred students have taken part in the two year project from concept through construction, pulling heavily from the College of Architecture, but including many engineering students as well. The challenge is to design, build, and operate the most livable, energy-efficient completely solar-powered house, to include everything a family needs, including a small car. The winning team is the one that best blends aesthetics and modern conveniences with maximum energy production and optimal efficiency.

Sounds easy enough. You know, if you’re willing to spend, say, $750,000 for for an 800 square foot house.

Most of the funds, of course, were expended on the compilation and integration of research on cutting-edge materials and systems, which the Department of Energy will own in return for the pleasure of competing. Or, you know, not sleeping for two years.

Today, they have a day off. Sort of, since the reconstruction work that begins at midnight will continue 24 hours a day until the competition opens for judging and to the public on Friday, October 12. This dealie isn’t just about looks, folks. The dishwashers must run, the toilets must flush, waste must be carried away, and the car must make it around the block assisted only by the juice generated by state-of-the art solar panels which, hopefully, will suck sunlight bigtime. Pics to come!

Why do I care? As the daughter of an architect and the oh-so-proud mother of one of the Student Project Managers (who received his Masters in Architecture in May but can’t get a “real job” until this project is completed), I’m psyched. Open to the public for tours October 12 – 20. I’ll be there! Extra perk for mosaic artists: the shower surround is Bisazza, of course!