The Mines Solar Decathlon team has made a resounding milestone for sustainability; the team has won its first ever Solar Decathlon competition.
The 2019 Solar Decathlon competition was held in Marrakech, Morocco this year. Construction and judging took place over a five-week period from mid-August to September. But you might be asking, what exactly is Solar Decathlon?
“It’s an international intercollegiate design competition where you design and build a full-size, net-zero house,” explains Lucy Davis, a senior in civil engineering and Design Manger, Safety Officer, and Construction Lead for the Solar Decathlon team. Houses are judged on a variety of goals from architecture and energy consumption to market appeal. There are ten judged categories total; hence the decathlon.
The Mines team partnered with two Moroccan universities, Cadi Ayyad University and the National School of Architecture, both in Marrakech. They approached the competition with a holistic, multi-purpose design: the result was Inter House.
“Inter is the Latin prefix for between, so we pride ourselves on building connections,” says Davis. “Connections between people, between the environment, between technology and between designs.”
The house includes details such as compressed stabilized earth brick (CSEB); 21% efficient solar panels; a central conditional energy recovery ventilator (CERV) system that monitors air temperature and quality; and a central control system built by a senior design team that controls everything from automatic blinds to readings on CERV sensors.
“Going into the competition, we were like, ‘okay, let’s do this, we have a house,’” says Davis. “’We weren’t sure if we even would have a house, but we pulled it off somehow, so let’s pull off this competition!’”
The team placed first in energy management, and placed consistently well across all categories to win the competition with 846 of 1000 points.
Dr. Tim Ohno, Physics faculty and Inter House advisor, is excited about the opportunities for collaboration and sustainability initiatives that could come from Solar Decathlon.
“There were just so many highlights, a lot of them were connections with the students that were over there,” says Ohno. “There’s a lot of interest in doing student exchange programs. There’s a really strong connection with both the students and faculty over there, and I think they feel the same way.”
Inter House still stands outside Marrakech, and the team hopes to use it for research in the future. While there may be potential for implementing the design in other areas of Morocco, the team sees their victory as a massive push for both sustainability initiatives and project-based learning throughout campus.
“One direction the school could look at is project-based education where students design and construct something,” says Ohno. “I don’t know if we’ll compete in another Decathlon again, but there are other options like car designs, Hyperloop, projects like that. I’d like to see more interdisciplinary projects.”
For now, the team is deservedly celebrating their two years of hard work and success.
“I’ll never forget my time there,” says Davis. “Seeing it being built was so rewarding.”