Students begin construction on solar house for fall competition

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After nearly a year and a half of planning, the University of Minnesota team has begun construction of a completely solar-powered house that will compete against 19 other universities this October in the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

This is the University of Minnesota's first-ever entry into this prestigious international competition. Teams from universities around the world ”including the United States, Canada, Spain, Germany and Puerto Rico”will compete in 10 categories to see who can build the most full-featured and energy-efficient dwelling, using only the power of the sun. Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany) won the last competition in 2007.

SolarDecE-lgThe two-year-long process will culminate with a 10-day competition (with judging on all aspects of the house, from energy efficiency to interior design) beginning Oct. 8 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Several companies and organizations have donated materials and cash to fund the construction of the house and other logistics of the competition, but more support is still needed.

"We believe our house has a good chance to place highly come October, and none of this would be possible without the generous support of donors and sponsors," said Ann Johnson, the team's project manager and director of the University of Minnesota's construction management program.

SolarDecC-lgMore than 100 University students from across campus are part of the team that is building and planning the solar house. They include students from several academic disciplines, including engineering, architecture, construction management, interior design, graphic design and many other areas.

The construction team is on track to complete the 800-square-foot house by early July. The team is planning to host a mock competition with the completed house on the University's St. Paul in late August during the Minnesota State Fair.

SolarDecD-lgThe University of Minnesota's house has been dubbed the ICON House because it uses a modified gable-shaped roof that maintains the familiar iconic house shape while maximizing the power of the sun. The house is also designed using solar technology that meets the extremes of Minnesota's cold winters and hot, humid summers.

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June 2, 2009