Archive for September, 2005


September 28, 2005 Leave a comment

i’ve just received confirmation that UT SolarD has descended upon the National Mall and the first truck has pulled up!!!  the 2005 Solar Decathlon has begun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

UT SolarD : University of Texas at Austin 2005 Solar Decathlon Team 

Categories: UT SolarD

hottest. day. EVVVAAAARRRR…

September 28, 2005 Leave a comment

so it turns out that sunday, the day we were outside all day loading the SNAP House onto flatbed trucks, was the hottest day of the year. 107 F in Austin. end of September. 107. outside all day. really fucking hot.

but it apparently gets better. a friend did some research. it appears that on sunday austin not only received its hottest day of the year from the sun god, but was also graced with the title of HOTTEST LOCATION ON EARTH. i haven’t verified this, but i guess its possible. death valley wasn’t as hot as austin. wtf!?

Categories: Austin, UT SolarD

Solar Decathlon

September 28, 2005 Leave a comment

at the moment i’m not indending to make this blog public, but rather keep it for myself.  however, i see that people keep visiting it, likely from the ‘newest post’ category on the wordpress dashboard.  so it might make sense to explain what exactly the Solar Decathlon is, since its pretty much the only thing i write about at this point in time.

the Solar Decathlon is an architecture and engineering competition sponsored by the Dept. of Energy and the Nat. Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  this is the second time the competitioni has occurred, the first time being 2002.  UT Austin was also a competitor in that inaugural round, but came in 8th overall.  i’ll explain why in a different post.  anyway, all contestants are charged w/ building a completely solar powered house, max 800 sqft, to be built and operated on the National Mall between the Capitol Bldg and Washington Monument for a period of 3 wks.  the purpose is to show the general public that solar power is a viable and affordable energy source that can be used to power a modern American lifestyle.  in reality, its not quite affordable yet, but prices continue to drop, and hopefully w/ the continued oil wars and hurricanes people will begin to understand that we have to change our lifestyles, or at least energy sources, a bit.

i came to UT architecture b/c it had the most detailed and dedicated Sustainable Design program of the top architecture schools, but also b/c it was a participant in the Solar Decathlon.  the Solar Decathlon participation was probably my tipping point, b/c i would probably have gone to Michigan had they been involved w/ the competition.  kind of funny that Michigan actually did end up becoming a contestant for the 2005 competition…

so i’ve spent essentially the last 2 yrs of my architectural education dedicated in some manor to the Solar Decathlon.  i believe that i’ve been on the 2005 UT team the longest, as i took part in research classes expressly for the purpose of the Solar Decathlon starting 2 summers ago.  the current team really solidified last february or march when courtney and lauren joined me to create the website and logo – the first required submission was a functioning website on april 15, 2004.  not only did we come up w/ a great logo, but we created a comprehensive educational site – way more than any other team.  that’s b/c the continued UT mission is education (2002 and 2005 made these key points of the teams’ mission).  our website contains more info about sustainable design and solar power than it does about the actual house we designed.

anyway, last summer was an intense design session, when we cranked out the SNAP House.  we worked about 24/7 that summe, pushing out designs, energy simulations, and material choices.  those continued through the fall, and finally construction documents were drawn up this past spring.  construction began in april 2005, and continued through this past sunday, at which point we were working 24/7 again.  along the way, we secured over $250,000 in material donations, as well as a nearly $50,000 donation from BP Solar (we won a competition amongst the 18 competing teams for the most architecturally integrated solar panels).  the house is beautiful, and we’re going to rock DC, starting tonight when our trucks roll onto the National Mall for assembly at 12:01am. 

Categories: UT SolarD

UMass team in trouble

September 28, 2005 Leave a comment

sad news for fellow Solar Decathlon competitor UMass Dartmouth.  apparently one of their 2 trucks crashed upon leaving the construction site yesterday.  they will proceed to the competition w/ half of their house, but my impression from the article is that if another truck can be secured, then the second half of the house will be able to make the trip to DC.  from our near catastrophe on saturday night loading our own house, i feel deeply for the UMass team, and hope that they can make it out w/ their entire house…

Categories: UT SolarD

UT and pneumatic HVAC controls

September 28, 2005 Leave a comment

do you know what a pneumatic HVAC control is? it’s a thermostat controlled by air pressure. it makes high-pitched squealing noises when you change the setting. it is inefficient and archaic. and yet the University of Texas at Austin not only uses it in EVERY SINGLE one of their BUILDINGS, but is also the single largest consumer and purchaser of pneumatic controls in the WORLD. why stick w/ such an outmoded technology? why not move on to a proven better technology? why not save money in heating and cooling by accurately controlling indoor temperature? why not keep students, faculty, and staff comfortable? the answer is simple: UT maintenance staff doesn’t know how to fix electronic thermostats, and refuses to learn how to do so. what kind of an ethic is that to be maintained at a university?

Categories: school

category parent

September 27, 2005 1 comment

has anyone else on wordpress noticed this? when i add a new category and select a parent category, that parent is not remembered. i have to edit the category after it’s created and reselect its parent category before the parent is remembered. weird.

Categories: Uncategorized

people reading my blog?

September 27, 2005 Leave a comment

i’ve noticed hits on my last post – how is that people are navigating to my site?  tell me in the comments, i’m eager to know!

 btw, i’ll be posting pics of the house in transition and on trucks soon – all photos were taken old-school on 35mm and need to be developed before they’re scanned…

Categories: misc.


September 27, 2005 Leave a comment

in my last post i noted that a crane was to come that afternoon (saturday). it did. we couldn’t use it. why? for one thing, a bunch of cars remained in the neighboring parking lot, prohibiting the crane from getting to a proper staging point. for another, we weren’t ready – there was too much additional prep work to be done. i worked until around midnight on saturday…

got to site at 6:30a sunday morning, first to show for the morning crew. jonathan and schreiber stayed up all night organizing tools and other materials. jonathan was the forklift master. people slowly filtered in, and we continued prep work until the crane showed up at 4p. hoisting the house?! tension began to rise.

bedroom SNAP was lifted w/o a hitch, and was easily moved across the site to a waiting drop-deck flatbed truck (trucking was kindly donated by Arrow trucking). same w/ the bathroom SNAP. these 2 SNAPs were actually first rolled along the structural rails using a system of winches. all we had to do was strap steel cables to the bottom of the house, stabilize the winches on the ends of the rails, and start cranking. the SNAPs glided beautifully along the rails, as designed.

the kitchen SNAP was a harrowing situation. i’m not going to post any details about moving the kitchen SNAP until after the competition, but let’s just say there was a brief time where we were afraid we might not be able to compete at all…

ultimately, though, UT SolarD prevailed and loaded everything onto the trucks! 1:40a rolled around, and we only had one rail left to load on the truck. those dedicated souls who stayed on site till the very end got down on our knees, kissed that last rail, signed it, lifted it, placed it, secured it, threw up our hands in celebration, and jumped in the car to get beer before the bars closed! it was an incredibly joyous occassion – 2 yrs of hard work, design, blood, sweat, aggravation, and dedication all made it successfully onto the trucks to begin the 1500 mile voyage to DC. exhilirating can’t begin to describe this first leg of the process.

all the bars closed by 2, so we couldn’t drink there. we converged on Raina’s apt and drank whatever we could find. singing our songs (to the tune of chumbawumba – ‘i take zinc down, i put it up again, you’re never gonna keep zinc down!!; shim-shimminy shim-shimminy to mary poppins; they make us laugh) toasting each other, and dancing till 4a (that’s when i left at least). raina’s neighbors were super cool, btw. remember that partying started at 2a on a sunday night – these people had tests and class the next day. just about all of her neighbors came into the party to congratulate her and us for completing the project, and even stayed to party for a bit. they thought, ‘i hear raina partying – the house must be complete!’ it was an amazing night.

tonight we are having a massive team dinner and send-off at guero’s on s. congress. our first team is leaving for DC tomorrow morning – holy shite! i don’t leave until oct.12, which gives me some time to catch up on schoolwork and actually spend time w/ cindy, who’s been amazingly understanding and accomodating through this past month, when my time commitment to UT SolarD has increased exponentially past its already high levels. i saw her for a cumulative 1 hour over the course of the past wk – not coming home from site till 4a (unless i was there all nite), and leaving early in the morning. i also get to catch up on sleep. 🙂

Categories: UT SolarD

rockin out, SNAPping all the while

September 24, 2005 Leave a comment

headache is bad, but have to keep moving.  we’ve pulled out the final structural fin that holds the roof up – the roof is now braced up w/ 4×4’s.  all the clerestory windows are out.  the roof is flat and hinged on the bedroom SNAP, we’re about to pull the bathroom and kitchen SNAPs apart, and then lower their roofs.  supposedly a crane is coming in an hour – that will speed up deconstruction of the house immensely.  the idea of jacking the houses up so that the trucks can roll under them is good, but doesn’t work quite so well in reality.  perhaps if we had pneumatic computer controlled jacks…

‘eye of the tiger’ is keeping spirits high.

also, i’ve had many friends email and call to make sure that we’re ok here in austin.  that’s been really nice to see people show concern, but the truth is that hurrican rita is actually a slippery little ho.  she’s all talk – no punch behind her words.  she was in fact too cowardly to make her way up here to the capitol, which is actually just fine b/c now we don’t need to contend w/ rain and winds when loading the house!   

Categories: UT SolarD

UT SolarD is my first post

September 24, 2005 Leave a comment

excited to try out my new wordpress blog! got into site this morning at 8a – i was supposed to be back by midnight last nite. i had pulled an all-niter on site the night before prepping for transportation. we had finished all the last minute zinc details and other issues. yesterday we started pulling the SNAP House apart into its four pieces. we winched the Office SNAP along its structural rails, and though i went home to sleep and didn’t see it, the SNAP was jacked up using massive industrial jacks, allowing the drop-deck trailer to back up under it. the Office SNAP is now on a truck! we’re about to start cross-bracing the Bedroom, Bathroom, and Kitchen SNAPs. we might use a crane instead of jacks to get those SNAPs on the trucks, but we’ll see.

Categories: UT SolarD