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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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!?
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.
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…
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?
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.
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…