Some U of C engineers show off their plans for the solar house.
John McDonald/the Gauntlet

Calgary schools to build a solar house

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Post-secondary students from Calgary hope to combat the city's off-the-charts energy consumption by participating in an international competition to build the most energy-efficient home.

Students from the University of Calgary, The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Mount Royal College will jointly make their bid to compete in the 2009 Solar Decathlon, set to take place in Washington D.C. Mainly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, this high-profile event brings together 20 teams of college and university students from around the world to design, build, and operate the most attractive and practical solar powered house.

The creation of the Alberta Solar Decathlon team, which is the first student-led, collaborative, energy-and-environment project involving the three schools, comes at an opportune time: last Tuesday saw the release of The Calgary Foundation's Vital Signs report card which stated the level of energy consumption in Calgary is not sustainable for the long term and recommended that Calgarians retrofit their houses for low-energy consumption.

This aligns well with the Solar Decathlon's objectives, according to project co-chair Mark Blackwell.

"A key goal of this project is to inform and educate the public on how solar technologies can be readily and affordably integrated into housing development," he said.

The knowledge the students will gain from designing and building the home will also be integrated into all three schools' curricula.

"The University of Calgary believes strongly in experiential learning to enhance students' education," said U of C president Harvey Weingarten at the offical launch of the project on Sep. 24.

Also at the launch, was the unveiling of the design of the eco-friendly home, which will feature state-of-the-art photovoltaic technology and an open-plan concept. The structure will have a unique "Alberta flavour," incorporating the elements of wood, water, stone and light--meant to highlight the province's connection to the land.

Although all of the schools will contribute resources and support for the project, each will also play its own distinctive role: the U of C will be in charge of administering the finances, SAIT will handle the construction, and MRC will draw up the actual design of the house.

"This project is a great example of pulling together all of our strengths and combining them with the strengths at other institutions to create something truly innovative," said MRC president David Marshall at the launch.

The team will submit its solar home proposal by Dec. to enter the 2009 competition. If the proposal is selected, the team will be first one from Western Canada to compete in the event.

The project team has committed to build the solar house even if its proposal is not one of the 20 selected. Taking into account the partnerships with companies such as Shell Canada and Xerox that have been formed, and the money that has already been raised (over $25,000 of the project's proposed $900,000 budget), the team has stated that there are too many benefits for the schools, the communities, and them- selves not to complete the house.




Outstanding job. Solar panel technology is part of a future market that has not reached its potential. Schools teach what is required when energy markets force alternatives to develop, as this article shows.