By George Harvey
The rather impressive web site devoted to the Norwich University Solar Decathlon 2013 has page called, “Approach,” which describes the principles the team chose to underlie its work. It begins with this quote:
“If we can build a house to prove design technologies worthy of the Solar Decathlon, why not build one focused on improving the lives of the people here in Vermont?” –ΔT90 Design Team
ΔT90 is a telling designation. The symbol “Δ,” the Greek letter “delta,” is an engineering designation for a difference between two importantly related numbers. The designation here refers to a difference between an outside temperature of 20° below zero Fahrenheit, and in indoor temperature of 70°. The house should provide for that difference because it is for Vermont. It should provide for that difference, however, without burning any fuel because it is designed that way.
It is an impressive goal. When the students working on this project achieve that goal, as I have no doubt whatever they shall, it will be an impressive achievement. It is, however, not the only goal they are setting out to achieve. They will do this in a house that is healthy and comfortable to live, work, and play in, with a system provided for home entertainment. It will be a house that is architecturally attractive, well engineered, and built conforming to a standardized building code. Including hot water and lighting, it will be well balanced from an energy perspective. It will have the ordinary appliances people expect in their homes. An on top of all that, it will be an affordable home for ordinary people, a home people would want to buy.
The Solar Decathlon’s contestants are post-secondary schools from the United States and abroad. It is not a competition to which a school can simply send a team. Schools apply to be admitted, submitting plans and proposals, and from those applying, twenty are chosen. This year, there are two schools from Vermont in the mix, Middlebury College and Norwich University. There are fourteen from other parts of the United States, two from Canada, and the others coming from the Czech Republic and Austria.
In deciding to build a house suitable to ordinary people in Vermont, the Norwich design team has decided to go above and beyond the simple requirements. Full points for costs are given to teams whose houses are intended to be built at a cost of $250,000. The Norwich ΔT90 house is intended to cost half of that. Furthermore, the Norwich ΔT90 house is intended to provide comfort in a temperature range most other design teams do not even think about. Their intention is “to make it affordable to a family living at 80% of Vermont’s median income level.”
Both the Norwich University and Middlebury College teams could use support. If you want to donate, the there are links to their donations pages from the sites below: