Solar Decathlon house moves to new home

Tech’s Solar Decathlon House has recently been moved to the Tellus Museum in Cartersville, Ga.

The house, which was built by a multidisciplinary team of students from the College of Architecture, the School of Mechanical Engineering and College of Management, won sixth place in the National Solar Decathlon competition held in October 2007.

After the competition, it was moved to the lawn outside the College of Architecture before moving again to its current location in Cartersville.

The house is an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath, steel-framed structure that runs completely on the energy from the sun. The rooftop solar panels, which can be tilted to take best advantage of extreme angles of sunlight in winter and summer, convert sunlight into at least 3,600 watts of electricity.

This is sufficient for all of the house’s daily energy needs, while excess energy is stored in batteries for rainy days or even sold directly to the power company.

Other parts of the house are sustainable as well. For example, gray water is reused to flush the toilet. The walls and ceilings are made of translucent polycarbonate materials filled with aerogel, which are not only lightweight but also provide high insulation value.

“The main design of the house revolved around sustaining life with light. There is no waste from using solar power, and soon the depletion of fossil fuels will make it the best alternative,” said Steven Hensey, a former Architecture major and Solar Decathlete who graduated from Tech this past fall and is now working at Green Habitats, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable building.

After the competition, the College of Architecture appointed Green Habitats steward of the Solar Decathlon House. The organization took possession of the house—its first major sponsorship—in August 2008 and decided to move it to the Tellus Museum in order to better demonstrate and spread knowledge about sustainable buildings.

“Green Habitats decided that the Tellus Museum would be an ideal new location for the Solar Decathlon House because firstly, its positioning guarantees maximum exposure for the house and the technology it uses…[and because] the state-of-the-art museum is a valuable Georgia education resource in itself,” said John Lie-Nielsen, chairman and founder of Green Habitats.

An estimated 150,000 to 250,000 visitors are expected at Tellus next year, many of whom will be student groups.

Because of weather conditions the house has not yet been set up, but it will soon be reassembled on a site at the northwest corner of the museum. The house will be fully functional and open to tours by the viewing public by the time May comes around.

“Working on the solar house was one of the best experiences of my life. That’s why I decided to continue doing research on new ways for sustainable building at Green Habitats,” Hensey said.

“If we can implement eco-consciousness at the design stage, the builders will follow these designs. To remain relevant and appealing while adhering to green standards, one must to keep a flexible perspective and adapt to keep current with ever-changing design trends,” Lie-Nielson said.