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Solar team shines, 5th internationally

Courtesy of enCORE

Ohio State’s Solar Decathlon team finished fifth in the U.S. Department of Energy’s competition on Saturday.

The international competition, held every two years in Washington, D.C. at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park, challenges college teams from around the world to design, build and operate the best solar-powered house.

“This is a competition from around the world and some of the best places in the world,” OSU President E. Gordon Gee told The Lantern Thursday.

Gee, who said it was a really “neat house,” joked if they won the competition, he would live in the house for a little bit.

“They raised the money, got themselves into the competition and are doing a great job,” Gee said.

The OSU team, made up of more than 70 students with 20 core members from 13 different majors, worked for nearly two years to design and construct “enCORE,” which was the university’s entry in the 2011 Solar Decathlon.

OSU was one of the 19 teams invited to participate, including teams from China, New Zealand, Belgium and Canada.

Stephanie Hayward, a sixth-year graduate student in architecture, is a member of OSU’s team.

“The houses were judged in 10 categories relating to design, performance and market viability,” Hayward said.

Team OSU returned to the competition from placing 10th in 2009 with their first entry house, “Solar House I.”

“As a returning team we carried the previous experiences forward to approach the different issues and to create a better house that was affordable, efficient and appealing,” Hayward said.

Teams earned competition points through efficient performance of typical household tasks such as cooking and washing dishes and laundry.

“The best feature for enCORE is the idea of it being focused for a family, I think it is something that hasn’t been focused on in past projects, so this one was really focused on being suitable for a family,” Hayward said.

Hayward said EnCORE got its name from focusing on the “core” of the house.

EnCORE was built with the idea to maximize the efficiency of the home by condensing all the mechanical and fixed items into a minimal footprint, while still providing flexible spaces that accommodate all the modern family needs, Hayward said. She said the team focused on spatial efficiency.

The exterior dimensions were 950 square feet with the interior ending up at 870 square feet. The 3-person home featured two bedrooms, one bath and a den, Hayward said.

Performances were assessed through the livability and affordability of each home.

The final cost of the house was $286,000, which placed OSU sixth in the affordability category.

Some of the house’s unique energy features were high-efficiency, triple-pane, gas-filled windows, super-insulated walls, a sloped roof to collect rainwater and a bioremediation system to filter and recycle graywater, a solar hot air system that uses phase-change technology to reduce heating and cooling loads by up to 20 percent and solar panels that can be effective even under overcast skies, according to a press release.

“A lot of the general public does not think that solar is a viable option, doesn’t think sustainability is worth their time,” said Ellen Gentry, a student assistant in mechanical engineering and a part of enCORE’s operation team.

“You have to lead them to understand that it is worth their time and they do not have to give up their current lifestyle to be sustainable,” Gentry said.

During the decathlon, visitors can tour the different homes to learn about the opportunities presented by cost-effective houses that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems available today.

“EnCORE, which has clean energy and performs better than most homes, will be set up on campus for a little while and then we are hoping to put it in a neighborhood in Columbus for a family to move in to,” Hayward said.

The University of Maryland won the overall decathlon.

“Maryland had a beautiful house, that was very well built and had a good concept,” Hayward said. “They had … what the jury wanted to see.”

Although OSU’s team stood in second place for most of the competition, they were happy with the overall outcome.

“It was definitely fun and a great experience,” Hayward said. “You make all these projects in school but for us getting to design a project on paper and then actually being able to build it was the best part overall.”

As of right now, there are no plans for OSU to compete again in the coming years.

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