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Reprinted from the Boulder Daily Camera

Team Revamps Solar House
Students to enter redesigned home in national competition
By Katy Human
March 22, 2002

This week, the sun’s rays are striking Boulder at just about the same angle they’ll hit Washington, D.C., in early October, when 14 teams of university students will build compact, solar-powered homes on the capital’s National Mall for a competition.

During the last two months, members of the University of Colorado’s Solar Decathlon team have been frantically redesigning their entry, creating a house that they hope has a better chance of winning and one that is simply more appealing.

To take advantage of the sun angle, several students carried a small model of their house outside Wednesday morning and inspected the play of light on its surface and interiors.

"We are all so much happier with this building," said engineering student Adam Jackaway. Last fall, students in one architecture and one engineering class at CU collaborated to take a first shot at designing a house for the competition. Influenced by too many chefs, the building came out half baked.

"From an energy perspective, it just didn’t perform well," said Mike Brandemuehl, an engineering professor at CU and adviser for the team.

Architecturally, the house was over-designed and inaccessible to the general public, said Matthew Henry, an architecture student. "It was a one-hit wonder," he said.

Earlier this semester, about 20 students and a couple of professors still interested in the project spent a day in a small room in the CU Engineering Center, articulating their goals and setting priorities.

Fundamentally, the house had to be adaptable, they decided. The new design — two rectangular rooms joined by an open, airy kitchen — was not only energy efficient, it was easy to redesign at different sizes, or for different environments.

For the competition, the house cannot be larger than 800 square feet. But this design, Henry said, could easily be made into a 3-bedroom "starter castle," for a Boulder family, or kept small and cheap.

New design in hand, the team has started fundraising in earnest during the last several weeks, said engineering student and unofficial development director Celeste Leidich. She estimated the project will cost $350,000, including design and construction, and transportation of the parts of the house, as well as the team, to Washington and back. The group expects to erect the building somewhere on campus after the competition so it can be used in education projects.

The students have already raised $85,000 in money and equipment donations, Leidich said. Astropower in southern California has been particularly generous, promising photovoltaic panels at cost and the assistance of a technician, she said.

Home Depot has given every team in the Solar Decathlon $3,000 worth of supplies and an invitation to ask for further donations, Leidich said. And a Texas company, Trojan Solar, is selling the team batteries at half price, a donation worth nearly $5,000.