You are here

Solar Decathlon 2013: Building Skills for Future Careers

September 16, 2013 - 3:03pm

Addthis

It took six months and nearly 60 students to build Stanford’s Start.Home, a house that aims to lower the entry barrier for an ultra-efficient house and make sustainability trendy. | Photo courtesy of Stanford.

It took six months and nearly 60 students to build Stanford’s Start.Home, a house that aims to lower the entry barrier for an ultra-efficient house and make sustainability trendy. | Photo courtesy of Stanford.

With a spectacular view of the New York City skyline, students from the Stevens Institute of Technology spent more than three months on the Hoboken Waterfront building their house, Ecohabit, and they considered it a learning process for everyone. | Photo courtesy of Stevens.

With a spectacular view of the New York City skyline, students from the Stevens Institute of Technology spent more than three months on the Hoboken Waterfront building their house, Ecohabit, and they considered it a learning process for everyone. | Photo courtesy of Stevens.

It took six months and nearly 60 students to build Stanford’s Start.Home, a house that aims to lower the entry barrier for an ultra-efficient house and make sustainability trendy. | Photo courtesy of Stanford.
With a spectacular view of the New York City skyline, students from the Stevens Institute of Technology spent more than three months on the Hoboken Waterfront building their house, Ecohabit, and they considered it a learning process for everyone. | Photo courtesy of Stevens.

Ever wonder what it takes to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon? Over the next couple of weeks, we’re exploring how the Solar Decathlon 2013 teams’ energy-efficient, solar-powered houses went from idea to reality, and documenting some of the steps along the way in this two-year competition. Follow the series by visiting energy.gov/solar-decathlon and see if you have what it takes to be a solar decathlete.

After nearly 18 months of hard work perfecting their designs, Solar Decathlon teams stepped outside of the classroom and began building their competition houses this spring. For many teams, the building process is more than just seeing their designs come to life -- it is also a chance to gain hands-on experience that is beneficial to their future careers.

While the building process is different for every team, one theme is consistent -- for most students, this is their first construction experience. Along the way, students learn how to read blueprints, work with contractors, stay on deadline and even operate power tools. They also become experts in problem solving, figuring out ways to resolve design conflicts on the construction site. This includes testing their energy systems to make sure their houses produce as much energy as they use -- a key part of the competition. In the final weeks of the building process, the teams work out all the kinks with their houses before preparing them for travel to the competition site in California.

Team Stanford Learns from Mistakes and Comes Out Stronger

It took six months and nearly 60 students to build Stanford’s Start.Home, a house that aims to lower the entry barrier for an ultra-efficient house and make sustainability trendy. During construction, the team learned that some of their key design elements -- like the Start.Home’s ability to split into five separate modules to allow the house to grow with its occupants -- were some of the most difficult to build. To solve this problem, the team had to pay careful attention to the connection points between each module, ensuring that wires, ducts and pipes can be disconnected and reconnected. With each construction challenge, the team took it in stride and made it a learning experience. In the end, the team says that the building process provided the practical knowledge and training necessary to be great engineers and designers.

Stevens Institute of Technology: A View to Build For

With a spectacular view of the New York City skyline, students from the Stevens Institute of Technology spent more than three months on the Hoboken Waterfront building their house, Ecohabit, and they considered it a learning process for everyone. For many it was their first construction experience, and for others it was opportunity to teach construction and gain hands-on experience installing Ecohabit’s innovations -- like the smart energy management system that monitors weather patterns, occupants’ habits and their energy use to provide feedback on ways to live more efficiently. While the team’s biggest challenge was the learning curve associated with the building process, they also point to that as the best part of the process. Students got to see first hand every day how the design decisions they made in the beginning of the competition affect the house’s construction. Through the building process, students gained experience building their design on a real scale -- something that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do outside of the competition.

Be sure to check back tomorrow on energy.gov/solar-decathlon for more on how teams prepare for the Solar Decathlon.

Addthis