More than 100 University of Calgary students took part in developing a completely sustainable home for the Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, D.C. in September 2011. On June 6, 2012, the U of C's multi-disciplinary Solar Decathlon team was awarded the Emerald Award for their work and environmental contributions.
The Alberta Emerald Foundation, an organization that celebrates environmental leadership, awarded the team for their completely net-zero home that was built to meet housing needs for Aboriginal Peoples in Alberta.
In Washington, the team placed 10th out of 19 and was the only Canadian school in the competition.
Their 1,000-square-foot home, the Cenovus Technological Residence Traditional Living, was designed to house a family of four. Its roof is covered in solar panels that provide enough electricity for the trtl to have net-zero energy consumption over the course of a year.
According to the project's communications lead and fourth-year business student Alexandre Ste-Marie, the Emerald Award shows that sustainable projects are important for university students.
"Our team consisted exclusively of U of C students from different faculties, and together we were able to build a completely sustainable home," said Ste-Marie. "To be recognized at such a high level tells us that the university is front and centre in developing new sustainable technologies and sustainable housing."
Ste-Marie said having a diverse team made it possible to gain the momentum to receive the award.
"It was a very diverse team, but with projects at that scope, you definitely need a diverse team in order to achieve the goals that are laid out," said Ste-Marie.
In 2011, the team partnered with Treaty 7, an aboriginal advocacy service and management corporation in Alberta, to address issues with aboriginal housing.
Ste-Marie said research needs to be done to help solve issues with housing that affect many people around the world. He said the U of C is heading in the right direction.
"When you are trying to solve rampant problems with housing, which is a basic problem everywhere in the world, we need to have research and skilled people to be able to address the issues that arise with housing needs," said Ste-Marie. "It is very rewarding to be involved in an extra-curricular project, especially one that is as hands-on and diverse as this one."
He said projects like this help prepare students for the real world after graduation.
"It's important for students to be involved in hands-on projects through their university career because it's great to learn in the classroom, but experiential learning is where you can apply your skills and stand out in a crowd," said Ste-Marie.
In 2013, the team will be partnering with sait and Mount Royal University to compete with teams from around the world.