so the 2007 UT SolarD team has been hard at work on the National Mall the past few weeks, and today inched up to the #5 slot! i’m super psyched for them – they’ve put a huge amount of hard work into the project, and they deserve to do well. hopefully they’ll be able to push up another slot, though they’re behind GA Tech by about 20 points, which will be pretty hard to make up. the #1 and #2 slots are held by Univ. of Maryland and the German team, Technische Universitat Darmstadt, and are up by too many points to catch. the German house is really beautiful and elegant – bringing that European architectural and engineering prowess to US shores.
while we’re on the topic of food, anyone rambling toward this blog would do well to know of El Chilito, the punky little brother of El Chile. located in what looks to be an old drive-in hamburger shack on manor road about 5 blocks east of I-35, El Chilito specializes in tacos. that’s pretty much it – delicious tacos. of course, you can get a thirst quenching limonada (lime-ade) or beer, as well as some funky fresh frozen pops, but really this place is all about the tacos. get it? tacos!
last summer as we were building the SNAP House in preparation for the Solar Decathlon, el chilito inconspicuously opened their windows (it’s walk-up, not walk-in, tho they have sheltered outdoor seating and wifi). we felt pretty sure that we were single-handedly responsible for their success as we ambled down nearly every day, sometimes two or three times, to partake in the deliciousness that emanated not blocks away from our building site. dear lord i can’t get through to you how good this place in – w/o a doubt the BEST tacos in austin.
it’s cheap, it’s fast, is fresh, it’s fantastic. it’s el chilito!
so we placed 6th place overall out of 18 competitors in the Solar Decathlon. not bad, though not what we hoped for. the entire week of the competition was marred by rain and overcast skies. obviously if there was sun all of the teams would have had working systems, but i honestly feel that we would have placed top 5 for sure. we had a huge array w/ lots of power which would have allowed us to easily drive our electric car a lot, and do well with all of the appliances. the only real issue that we ever had was that our hot water system was broken at the start of the contest, resulting in loss of points. aside from that, everything was related to lack of sun. ce la vie.
so now the house is returning to austin on monday (why not sunday, when we don’t have school, is beyond me). we must take another day off school to reassemble the house – but only partially b/c for some reason blacklands has delayed pouring the concrete foundations multiple times! the foundations will supposedly be poured on monday, but they need time to cure, so we will unload the house and rest it on the ground instead of on its structural rails. we will then need to rent a crane a second time to get the house properly assembled. what should be a 2 day affair is becoming a 2 wk affair. you’d think they’d get their shit together considering they’re getting a $250,000 house for free.
there are so many things i thought of and saw in DC that i wanted to blog about, and for the life of me can’t remember any of them. maybe that will be one of the nice things that flock can help me out w/ – using the draft feature and the shelf to store ideas and partially completed blog entries.
so i’m back from DC, the Solar Decathlon is over (though we still need to reassemble the house here in Austin), and i can finally get back to the rest of my schoolwork. apparently we’re going out to fabricate a fence w/in the next hour for our alley project.
i’m also now using flock, so we’ll see how good this hyped browser is. it’s cool that there are blogging tools built in, but i don’t understand yet why that’s better than blogging right through the web interface. one upside is that anyone testing flock can get a free wordpress blog. i managed to get one a few wks ago, so maybe other people can use that backdoor to their advantage.
i had a whole post on UT whooping OU and the insanity that ensued in the streets of austin. i can’t remember if my browser crashed or if it is now just missing. weird.
anyway, Solar Decathlon is now in day 3, although it appears that data logging only started today. we took 4th place in the architecture competition and 3rd place in dwelling. virginia tech is cleaning house, and they do have quite an impressive looking house from what i can tell. a lot of other schools that i expected to be at the top of the competition are surprisingly closer to the bottom, such as Michigan, Maryland, and Madrid. it’s heartening, though, to see us on par or better than some top-notch design schools, such as RISD. most of these houses are really good looking.
and now i must continue work on a sukkah for Chabad. i don’t think i’ll be able to punch out this design in time. i knew i had limited time, and may just advise them to work w/ the existing sukkah this year and wait for a new design for next year.
i’ve been close to completely absent from studio for the past week and a half. my group has marched forward and developed the scheme that we brainstormed about the redevelopment of the Plaza Saltillo District in East Austin. the land to be developed is owned by CapMetro and is intended to become a high density development for the transit stop located there (pending the new commuter rail). high density = federal development funds. but we don’t really dig the uberdensity. it’s completely feigned – it’s like sticking Greenwich Village in the middle of upstate NY. density should grow organically. this density dropped in the middle of a low-income Hispanic neighborhood would – no matter what percentage of low-income housing they retain in the new development – bring in high income white people. we don’t think that gentrification is a bad thing, we support it and realize it is the natural way of the market. we just feel that this development would, in one fell swoop, hurt this neighborhood in such a way that it wouldn’t be able to retain its current identity.
instead, we did a study on Granny Flats / garage apartments, and discovered that if such development was encouraged in addition to a lower density development on the alotted land, we could maintain the same density that would be concentrated in the alotted land alone under the current design. we think our way is better for a number of reasons:
we’ve also proposed the re-routing of a number of bus lines to converge on Plaza Saltillo. that would make the plaza a transit hub instead of just a train stop. that would provide ease of transfer to commuters, and turn the plaza into landmark.
our design keeps the existing train tracks running through the middle of the site, and puts infill development on both sides of it. an elevated greenway will cover the train and provide access for the new Lance Armstrong bikeway as well as useable space to residents. retail is located on ground level and on the greenway level.
now, UT SolarD: the house is completely assembled on the National Mall! yesterday evening all of the modules were successfully craned onto the rails and rolled together. today they were again rolled apart, roofs were lifted, and the mechanical chases and clerestory windows were installed. tomorrow solar panels and batteries will be installed, then evacuated hot water tubes, then zinc and trim. word is our house is looking pretty damn good!