Students from New York City College of Technology (City Tech) held a send-off party at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday for a solar home they built, which will be shipped to California and entered into the 2015 Solar Decathlon International Competition in October.
It took more than 80 undergraduate students two years to plan the house and four months to build it, as students worked 12-hour days, six days a week throughout the summer to put it together. In order to win the competition, the 1,000-square-foot house must pass 10 tests to prove that it’s livable, supplies energy to its appliances and needs to produce at least as much energy as it consumes.
“It’s part of a national initiative to promote sustainability and zero emissions,” said Kevin Hom, dean of City Tech’s School of Technology and Design. “A number of major universities compete for the right just to compete. We are very fortunate that City Tech was one of the qualifying teams and is one of the only undergraduate qualifying teams.”
Twenty schools entered the bi-annual solar decathlon, but, for various reasons, five have already dropped out, including Yale. Many schools team up to enter the competition and use graduate students, which makes City Tech unique.
The process began two years ago when City Tech selected 20 students who made up the core of Team DURA (Diverse, Urban, Resilient, Adaptable) and began drawing up plans. The DURA house is a stackable design meant to provide relief after catastrophic storms and can also be used for mobile and low-income housing.
Because the house is meant to be stacked, it created many difficulties for the team including how to best position the solar panels on the side of the house and how to properly install water drainage systems. Team members remarked that building something like this in New York City was particularly difficult.
“It’s difficult to build a sustainable house living within the constraints of an urban area because it makes direct access to solar power a little more difficult,” said Hadiza Djibring. “You also can’t dig into the Earth to get geothermal energy. There are a lot of zoning and location laws that make it hard for a homeowner to build a home like this in New York City.”
After the competition is over, the students hope to donate the home to a disabled veteran, but since it is so expensive to move and construct the eventual destination is unknown. Djibring noted that the local firefighters from a nearby station were hoping that they might get the unique house.
The entire project cost approximately $350,000 and although it is nearly completed, the school is still raising money for the project. While it is built, they still have to ship it to California for the competition and send a team of students to reconstruct it while they are there.
The decathlon, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, takes place Oct. 8-18. To see the results and for more information on the rules of the competition, go to www.solardecathlon.gov/ and to donate money to the students, go to www.citytech.cuny.edu and click “Support City Tech.”