Solar Decathlon winners

septiembre 15, 2006


Designed by students at Cornell University, this solar-powered mobile home placed second in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2005 Solar Decathlon. Photo courtesy Jeff Wolfram/Cornell University.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon challenges student teams to design an attractive solar-powered home. In the 2005 event, 18 teams competed from across the U.S., as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, and Spain.



By James Murdock

Ben Uyeda is fighting a culture war. But it’s not about guns, gays, or abortion—it’s about solar power. Uyeda is the chief architecture officer for an ecofriendly developer called Independence Energy Homes. The technical problems in using photovoltaic cells to power houses were solved long ago, he observes, but the hard part is altering consumers’ perceptions. “You can put ‘bio’ or ‘eco’ in front of anything and people won’t care unless you communicate how it makes their lives better,” says the 27-year-old Uyeda.

To demonstrate value, Independence will partner with developer Growth Corridor to build 70 homes in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts later this year. They hope to convince buyers that photovoltaic cells are a capital expense that can be part of a mortgage and thus yield a fixed cost for energy. It’s a persuasive argument, given the skyrocketing prices of conventional energy sources such as oil and electricity.

Uyeda, who received his master’s in architecture from Cornell University in 2005, founded Independence with four other Cornell grads while they were competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Held semiannually in Washington, D.C., the event challenges student teams to design and build solar-powered houses. Richard King, the Decathlon’s founder and director, says judges mainly look for curb appeal. “One of the barriers to solar power is that people think it’s ugly,” King explains. “That’s why we’re looking for photovoltaic systems integrated right into a house, rather than just stuck on as an afterthought or retrofit.”

Cornell’s house placed second in the 2005 Decathlon, surpassed only by the University of Colorado’s entry. The Colorado team also hopes to take its design to a larger audience and is now working with the Genesis subsidiary of Champion Homes. Colorado’s design innovates in more ways than just its architecture. The team invented “Bio-SIPs,” structural insulated panels composed of soy-based insulation and SonoBoard, a lightweight composite paneling made of recycled paper and wood. Julee Herdt, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Colorado, cocreated SonoBoard in the 1990s. Although the product’s manufacturer recently discontinued it, Herdt and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory are developing a newer version with an eye to commercial application in SIPs. Herdt hopes it will be ready for the next Decathlon in 2007.

Fuente: Architectural Record

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