Holly Burke

The Cal Poly Solar Decathlon team was recognized Jan. 18 by The California Energy Commission for its efforts in sustainable building and energy conservation.

The team took third place overall in the competition last fall in Washington, D.C. In subcategories, Cal Poly received first place in energy efficient appliances, first place in energy efficient lighting and also earned second place in architecture.

Eighteen colleges participated in the international competition including: University of Colorado, Denver and Boulder; Universidad de Puerto Rico; Cornell University; and Universidad Politecnica de Madrid. Cal Poly was the only university from California to participate.

The competition required the schools to build a house that was powered only by the sun. Students drove the partially constructed house in a truck to Washington, D.C. The first night they were allowed to begin building at midnight and the team continued working until 10 a.m.

Awards were given in architecture, dwelling (how marketable the house is), comfort, appliances, hot water, energy balance and several other categories.

“(The Solar Decathlon) is a chance to promote solar energy,” said Nicholas Holmes, an architecture senior who participated in the project. “Solar-powered houses can function well and be affordable.”

The Solar Decathlon will be having its next competition in 2007. Cal Poly, along with the other universities that participated in last year’s competition, will be receiving a $100,000 grant from the United States Department of Energy to help fund next year’s efforts.

“It costs about $500,000, so they are only funding about 20 percent of the project,” said Rob PeAña, architecture professor and an advisor for the project.

The last competition was funded by “in kind” donations, fundraising and two large private donations, PeAña said.

“It’s a great experience, fantastic for any students who want to get involved,” said Austin Quig-Hartman, a mechanical engineering senior involved with the project. “It’s not just the (United States), but offers a worldly prospective and is forward-thinking.”

“We got national exposure, which is huge,” said Robert Johnson, an electrical engineering masters student who was the competition strategist and the mechanical and electrical student lead.

“It’s one of the very few ways to work on a senior project and actually see it come to bear,” Johnson said. “We need to engage the student engineer and architect, in practice and design.”

The house is now back at Cal Poly near Mount Bishop Road. It is still completely functional but is not hooked up to water or a sewage system. In the near future the house may be used as a learning tool. Classes can go to the house to see solar methods in use.

A meeting to discuss the initial designs of the house for the competition in 2007 will be held Feb. 1 from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in the Architecture Media Lab, room 5-314. For more information about the next competition, visit the Cal Poly Renewable Energy club at www.calpoly.edu/~reclub.

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