Solar Decathlon house takes shape
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | April 05,2013
Lucia Suarez / STAFF PHOTO
Middlebury College’s 2013 Solar Decathlon team poses Thursday afternoon next to InSite, a 954-square-foot solar-powered home they are constructing. The team was kicking off the spring construction season.
A new 100 percent solar-powered house is taking shape on the Ridgeline Parking Lot at Middlebury College.
The new house, called in InSite, is a 954-square-foot, single-story home that at the moment only has the bare bones constructed. It is missing windows, siding and flooring, and the insulation will hopefully go in next week.
The house will be judged as part of the biennial Solar Decathlon hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy which challenges 20 collegiate teams from around the world to design, build and operate solar-powered homes. The final competition will be held at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.
“The concept is to build a house with the community in mind,” said Gwen Cook, project manager and communications coordinator for the project. “We were thinking about Middlebury.”
An open house Thursday afternoon gave students, faculty and staff the opportunity to see the construction progress, and it officially kicked off the spring construction season for the project.
“This really extends a long tradition here at the college in terms of our attention, and our interest and our leadership in environmental education,” said college President Ronald Liebowitz during a short ceremony at the open house.
“This is a perfect competition for us. We are so proud of our students and so proud of our faculty.”
The house itself will have a large open space that will include a living space, dining space and kitchen, one bathroom and two bedrooms: a master bedroom and a children’s bedroom with two built-in beds. The roof will be slanted and it will have inserts of plant beds that will help with water runoff, infiltration and insulation.
The solar aspect of the house is key and the project’s designers decided to step out of the box when they completed the design. Instead of having the solar panels on the house’s roof, they decided to create a shade walkway attached to the house that will have the panels instead.
“We really wanted to express the flexibility of our project,” Cook said. “I think it’s a great way for people to interact with the technology.”
The team’s budget for the project is about $1.4 million. This price includes the cost of the house — hopefully under $250,000 — and fees for the project advisers, student labor during the summer, and transportation of the house and team to California in October for final judging. As of Monday they have raised over $500,000.
Cook said to transport InSite for the competition they will be using a mixture of trucks and rail because they wanted to be as fuel efficient as possible.
This is the second time a team from Middlebury is participating in the competition. In 2011, Team Middlebury placed fourth with its house Self-Reliance, a 996-square-foot house inspired by a historic New England farmhouse. The house is being used as a residence hall at the college.
“We were sort of an anomaly and a trendsetter back two years ago when we were the first liberal arts college to be welcomed into the competition,” Liebowitz said. “It was such a statement and an accomplishment for liberal arts education because most, in fact all, of the competition were graduate-level institutions that had both engineering and architecture schools and programs. This was quite remarkable.”
Construction is expected to be completed in August and then it will take a couple of weeks to transport the house to California.
The final spot for InSite once the competition is over will be across the street from St. Mary’s Elementary School in Middlebury.