Illinois competes in Solar Decathlon

By Susan Kantor

The University was recently chosen as one of 20 participants for the 2007 Solar Decathlon.

The Solar Decathlon is a competition that exhibits the efforts of each university to build an “efficient house with renewable energy,” said Ty Newell, assistant dean in the College of Engineering and professor in mechanical engineering.

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Currently, the project is headed by a core of 5-7 professors, said Pat Chapman, assistant professor in electrical engineering. These professors will begin soliciting both graduate and undergraduate students from their classes to form the student teams. Students will work on this project for classroom credit as well as volunteering opportunities. An estimated 50-100 students are expected to join the project before its completion.

This project requires students from different educational areas on campus including architecture, urban planning, engineering, and marketing.

“We are trying to pick as many different disciplines as we can,” Chapman said.

“(This is) a great opportunity for all these areas to work together,” said Michael McCulley, assistant dean in FAA and associate professor in the school of architecture.

The house itself will be 800 square feet, about the size of a two-bedroom apartment, and fully functioning. It will most likely contain two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen, Chapman said. How the home will look is undecided.

“It depends on what the architects want,” Newell said. “It could look like something from the “Jetsons,” or something that Frank Lloyd Wright built or like your next door neighbor’s house.”

The home will be constructed on campus, taken apart and transported to Washington, D.C., and reassembled on the National Mall in the fall of 2007. Nineteen other universities are also participating. Around 100,000 people are expected to visit these homes in the two weeks they are open for the general public to tour. One week out of the three will be dedicated to the judging process.

Each team will be judged on 10 aspects including energy efficiency, marketability and accessibility. Different competitions are planned for the teams, such as washing towels, doing dishes, and making meals to find out how much energy each home uses. Each team will also be issued an electric car that must be charged on energy from the home. The cars will then have to be tested to see how far they can run.

Newell described this as a great experience for the University to display new technologies that are being developed.

“The object is for it to be an attractive home that could sell on its own merit, whether or not it is solar powered,” Chapman said. “It should be as an attractive, marketable home as it can.”