Purdue team to compete in international solar home competition

April 19, 2010

This is a model of the concept flex/home that a Purdue team used to earn a spot in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2011. The team will build a solar house, then dismantle it and ship it to Washington, D.C., for the international competition in fall 2011. (Solar Decathlon image/Pat Corkery)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University is one of 20 teams chosen to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011.

The teams, from 16 U.S. and four foreign universities, will compete to design, build and operate the most affordable, attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The houses will be set up and judged on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in fall 2011.

The Purdue team has spent this academic year preparing a conceptual design of a project called flex/home, said William Hutzel, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology and a team adviser along with Otie Kilmer, professor of visual and performing arts; Clark Cory, associate professor of computer graphics; and Mark Shaurette, assistant professor of building construction.

The Solar Decathlon is designed to develop affordable homes that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems available today.

Hutzel said the houses must be net-zero for energy consumption, which means they must produce at least as much energy as they use. For the first time in 2011, teams also will be penalized if a house is appraised at more than $250,000, he said.

The Purdue team has consisted of about a dozen students, but that number will grow greatly beginning in the fall, Hutzel said. Although some of the students currently on the team will finish their undergraduate work before fall 2011, they are considering doing graduate work built around the decathlon effort.

Hutzel said courses involved in designing and building the house likely will range from engineering and building construction management to landscape architecture, interior design and marketing. He expects to have a construction design completed during the fall semester with actual construction in the spring.

The house will be built on campus, then dismantled and shipped to Washington for the two-week competition.

DOE provides each team with $100,000. But Hutzel estimates that the cost, including construction, moving the house to Washington and back, and housing the team in Washington for two weeks, will approach $500,000, so fund-raising is under way.

This is Purdue's first time in the Solar Decathlon. DOE held the first competition in 2002 and has held it biennially since 2005.

The team's proposal was one of 40 submitted to DOE from which the final 20 were chosen by a panel of engineers, scientists and experts from DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Teams were required to demonstrate the ability to design and build an innovative solar-powered house, raise additional funds, support the project through an integrated curriculum, and assemble the students needed to complete the project.

Professionals from the American Institute of Architects, National Association of Home Builders, U.S. Green Building Council, building industry media and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers also evaluated the teams' conceptual designs.

More information on Solar Decathlon 2011 is available at http://www.solardecathlon.gov/ 

Writer:  Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu  

Source:  William Hutzel, 765-494-7528, hutzelw@purdue.edu