The Final Stretch: Team Texas Heads to 2013 Solar Decathlon
NADIA M. WHITEHEAD | October 03, 2013 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
UTEP and EPCC students have spent two years creating a net-
zero, 800-square-foot home for the DOE's 2013 Solar Decathlon.
Highlights of the home include solar window shades, sun-tracking
skylights, LED lights, an ADA accessible ramp, and bifacial
Photo courtesy Team Texas
The U.S. Department of Energy's 2013 Solar Decathlon kicked off Tuesday, Oct. 1, and will take place over the course of the next week in Irvine, CA.
After two years of hard work, everything finally boils down for Team Texas – which includes students from The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College. The competition challenge was for collegiate teams to design, build, and operate a solar-powered home that is cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.
"We've been building what's called a net-zero house where we're able to run the entire house on its own using absolutely no outside energy other than the sun," said Jacob Nevarez, a senior engineering student and lead mechanical engineer on the team.
For the last several months, the 800-square-foot home was built in a lot near the El Paso International Airport, but in mid-September, it was loaded on several semi-trucks and began its more than 700-mile trek across the U.S.
"That was the other challenging portion of this house," said Nicolas Mercado, a graduate student in construction management. "This actually has to be delivered [to California], so we have to make it to where we can disassemble it and assemble it there. This isn't going to come down wall for wall, we're going to cut it into four big pieces."
All four sections of the home arrived safely to the building site on Sept. 25, and since then, UTEP students have been racing to put the house back together for the competition.
Nineteen other collegiate teams, who have also built and transported their homes to the site, will now face off in 10 contests: architecture, marketing appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort, hot water, appliances, home entertainment, and energy balance.
Highlights of Team Texas' home include a completely recyclable corrugated metal roof, solar window shades, sun-tracking skylights, LED lights, an ADA accessible ramp, and bifacial solar panels.
In addition, the home will be ductless and rely on an innovative heating and cooling system built into the floor and ceiling.
"We were able to use the small surface area on this house – just on this roof – to generate the entire energy needed for this home," said Nevarez, who added that the UTEP-EPCC home is valued at $250,000.
Students have designed the home to represent El Paso, and the exterior of the house reflects a southwestern style Hispanic influence. In fact, 85 percent of the materials for the exterior come from the Paso del Norte region.
"We really want the design to match our local arid area," Mercado said. "The mission of the team lies in developing a house that takes advantage of the abundance of sunshine in these dry lands using sustainability, and to communicate and educate to residents that sustainability can become a reality and a pleasure."
Once the competition ends on Oct. 13, the home either will be transported back to campus, and permanently exhibited to future and current students, or sold to a potential buyer.
"The successful completion of this two-year long project is the result of over 100 students from the Colleges of Engineering, Business Administration, Liberal Arts and EPCC," said Richard Schoephoerster, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering said, "I am very proud of Team Texas and the effort all put in to support our students. This has been a tremendous learning opportunity for them."