University of Calgary

University of Calgary

September 26, 2011 11:39 ET

University of Calgary: Canada's home shines at solar competition

Even under grey skies, Canada's Solar Decathlon home stands out in solar village

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Sept. 26, 2011) -

Editors Note: There are 2 photos associated with this Press Release.

After four days of gloomy weather, the sun finally came out over the solar village on Sunday afternoon. Canada's team has already shown an estimated 7000 people through the Cenovus TRTL solar home – more than any other team so far in the U.S. Department of Energy's 2011 Solar Decathlon.

Until October 2, the TRTL, along with 18 other student-designed solar homes, will be open to the public on West Potomac Park in Washington, DC. The houses are undergoing rigorous testing while the teams host a series of special events to demonstrate the functionality of their homes.

Immediately following the engineering juried tour and a special visit from Canada's Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer on Friday morning, the TRTL team opened up the house to the rain-drenched public. Solar-power professionals, alternative energy enthusiasts, and the generally curious flowed through the home as Canada's team shared stories and answered questions.

"The most common questions I get are 'What is the floor made of?' (cork) and 'What kind of animal hide is on the bed?' (buffalo)," said Nichole van Steenbergen, sponsor relations manager and a final-year student in the Master of Science in Sustainable Energy Development program at the University of Calgary. Tareq Baker, building information modeling lead and a PhD candidate in Environmental Design, lost his voice from speaking with so many people.

"The elements from Aboriginal culture we have incorporated are making an impact and people are showing interest," said Mostafa Sabbagh, interdisciplinary coordinator for the team and a PhD candidate in Environmental Design. "The décor is really appropriate. No one needs to tell people they're entering a First Nations home – they can tell as soon as they walk in."

As part of the competition, each team is required to host two dinner parties and a movie night for their neighbours in the solar village. On Monday night, Canadian team members Johann Kyser and Chris Fry will host VIP guests Dr. Reg Crowshoe, the team's spiritual advisor, and his wife Rose as well as two decathletes from each of the three guest teams to a feast of Aboriginal cuisine including roast bison with wild rice, bannock and berries.

Tuesday night, the team will host a movie night where a neighbouring team will assign points based on the usability of the home theatre system. On Wednesday, the team will prepare and serve a Canadian contemporary dinner for yet another group of guests, who will also enjoy violin music provided by the team's sponsorship lead Carolyn Parker.

Members of the Canadian team will enjoy meals and entertainment at the China, Belgium, and Maryland homes.

Results from the juried competition begin Tuesday afternoon with the affordability results, followed by architecture on Wednesday, engineering on Thursday, and communications on Friday. The team will continue to host public tours from 10 am to 2 pm Monday to Friday and from 10 am to 5:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The awards ceremony for the entire competition is scheduled for Saturday, October 1 (time TBD).

The University of Calgary team currently sits in eleventh place, though team members are still perfecting the home's systems in an effort to gain more points in measured contests such as hot water pull, comfort zone and energy balance.

To follow Canada's score, visit the Solar Decathlon current standings page:

Help the team by voting online for the Cenovus TRTL home in the People's Choice Award competition:

Recap from the weekend

Highlights from the weekend included a special visit from Canada's Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer on Friday morning and public storytelling event by Dr. Reg Crowshoe, the team's spiritual-cultural advisor and former chief of the Piikani Nation, at the National Museum of the American Indian on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday evening, ConocoPhillips Canada sponsored a special event at the National Museum of the American Indian to promote dialogue among industry, academia, native communities, government and foreign relations on issues of Aboriginal housing and innovation. The evening wrapped up with a special presentation by Dallas Arcand, an internationally renowned hoop dancer from Calgary. Visit for a video from the event, the most recent episode of 'Solar Hero'.

Coming up this week

The team is looking forward to receiving the results from the juried tours throughout the week, hosting special events for their neighbours in the TRTL home, and attending a special event at the Embassy of Canada on Thursday evening.

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 solar-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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