University of Calgary

University of Calgary

September 21, 2011 10:06 ET

University of Calgary: 'All systems go' on Canada's solar home

University of Calgary Solar Decathlon team brings together students, staff, and industry

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - Sept. 21, 2011) - "We did it! We passed our safety inspection!" With those words from Kim Gould, construction manager for Canada's Solar Decathlon entry, the reconstruction of the University of Calgary solar home – the Cenovus TRTL – in Washington DC was declared complete.

The team pushed the limits of their 7 pm deadline last night. "We worked until the absolute last minute," said Johann Kyser, an environmental design student and Aboriginal relations manager for the project. "We didn't want it to be that way but there was just so much to do."

Even with nearly 20 business, engineering, and environmental design students on the job, reconstructing the fully functional 1000 square foot solar home on Washington's National Mall in just seven days was no easy feat. Representatives from sponsors Graham Construction and Skyline Roofing worked around the clock with the students, offering guidance and preparing the home for judging.

The four modules of the house were reassembled, the solar-paneling roofing reattached, plumbing and wiring completed, appliances installed, rooms decorated, and a large deck built. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to tour the home over the course of the competition (Sept 21 – Oct 1).

In a unique international collaboration, a student team from Germany flew in to help the Canadians complete construction. Peter Russell, a former University of Calgary student and current dean of architecture at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, approached the team earlier this year to ask if his students could pitch in as part of their preparations for the 2012 European Union Solar Decathlon in Madrid.

Behind the scenes, a dynamic duo is fueling the students with healthy meals and transporting them safely between hotel and construction site at all hours. Karrie Horner, quality assurance manager for the Project Management Office at the University of Calgary, and student Sarah Bramley, the team's architecture lead, have been dubbed 'lifesavers' by many of Canada's decathletes. It wouldn't be a great student experience without a bit of drama – yesterday they set off the hotel fire alarm while cooking a meal for 25 in their tiny kitchenette.

After an intense week, the team finally relaxed on Tuesday evening after meeting their first big milestone. "It feels odd that I don't have to build anything tomorrow," said Adam Cripps, a fourth-year civil engineering student and engineering lead on the team, who has worked on the project – sometimes seven days a week – for the past three months.

The team's only day of 'rest' before the onset of the competition begins at 6:30 am Wednesday with a Sun Ceremony, to be performed at the house site by Dr. Reg Crowshoe, former Chief of the Piikani Nation and spiritual-cultural advisor to the project.

The competition kicks off at the Opening Ceremony on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 11 am EST.

About the Solar Decathlon

The 2011 Solar Decathlon, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, challenges student teams from around the world to design, construct and operate energy-efficient sola-powered homes. The University of Calgary student-led Cenovus TRTL (pronounced 'turtle') is Canada's only entry into this year's competition. TRTL, which stands for "Technological Residence, Traditional Living", addresses critical issues in Aboriginal housing in Canada and was designed in collaboration with the Treaty 7 First Nations of Southern Alberta. On June 21, 2011 (National Aboriginal Day in Canada), Cenovus Energy joined as title sponsor, announcing their donation of $600,000 to Canada's team.

The University of Calgary is a comprehensive research university, ranked one of Canada's top eight research universities and a member of the 15 most research-intensive universities in Canada (the U15), combining the best of long-established university traditions with the City of Calgary's vibrant energy and diversity. This is the University of Calgary's second entry into the Solar Decathlon. In 2009, Team Alberta's SolAbode – a combined effort between ACAD, SAIT Mount Royal University, and the University of Calgary – placed 6th out of 20 teams.

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Contact Information

  • University of Calgary
    Washington, DC: Julie Phillips
    Communications Coordinator
    Cell: 403.680.1054

    University of Calgary
    Calgary: Grady Semmens
    University Relations
    403.220.7722 or Cell: 403.651.2515