Students begin construction on solar home project

A group of Washington State University engineering and architecture students are beginning construction on a solar home that will become part of the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, D.C., this October.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project will be held at noon on March 31 in the Thermal Fluids Laboratory on the WSU campus.

Sponsored by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab, the competition gives students two years to plan and build a 500-800 square-foot house that receives all of its energy needs from the sun.

The competition aims to increase public awareness of solar energy and inspire innovative solutions in ecological design. Of 18 teams from around the world participating in the competition, WSU is the only competitor from the Northwest.

As part of the competition, students have to provide a home with all the modern conveniences, including heating and air conditioning, refrigeration, hot water, lighting, appliances and communications. The homes are judged on their energy production, efficiency and design.

The event is called a decathlon because the homes are judged in 10 separate areas. The WSU solar home will be completed in August then transported by truck to Washington, D.C., in September for display and judging on the Washington Mall. In 2002, the display drew an average of 25,000 visitors per day.

The WSU students involved in the project are part of a multidisciplinary team, including students from construction management, engineering, architecture and interior design. They have developed a design for their structure and have received numerous donations for materials.

The skin of the building, decking and siding will be made of wood-plastic composite products, donated by the WSU Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory. The group has also received donations for structural lumber, insulated panels and home appliances. As part of the competition, the students also have an electric car, which is required to run off excess electricity generated within the home.

Matthew Taylor, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Construction Management, is advising the students on the project.

To attend the groundbreaking, please RSVP to

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