Jan. 27, 2012
Catholic University Team Chosen for 2013 Solar Decathlon
A southeast view of Team Capitol D.C. Harvest, which has been picked for the 2013 Solar Decathlon competition.
A team led by students at Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Planning is one of 20 worldwide chosen to compete in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon.
The selection of Team Capitol D.C. Harvest, which also includes students from American and George Washington universities, marks the first time that Catholic University has been chosen to participate in the competition. It is also the first time that any University in Washington, D.C., has been tapped for the decathlon.
News of the selection was greeted with jubilation at the Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies, home of the architecture and planning school.
“There’s such excitement among the students,” says Rauzia Ally, project director and an instructor at the school. “Being chosen for the Solar Decathlon is like being picked for the America’s Cup [sailing competition]. It’s extremely competitive and an incredible opportunity for our students to learn about cutting-edge technology and to work with the corporate partners who lend their expertise to the project.”
The prestigious competition challenges teams to build a net-zero house, which generates more energy than it draws from the electrical grid. Harvest will showcase the latest in “green” building technologies and “stress nature and technology’s dual role in promoting architecture that contributes to sustainability,” Ally notes.
In past years, the houses have been located on the National Mall for viewing by the public. For the 2013 competition, the houses will be installed at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.
The team’s one-story, 850-square-foot house with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen will feature “a strong focus on healthy design to promote healthy living,” notes Ally. The design calls for a meditation/spa area and about 800 square feet of landscaped exterior space that includes vegetable and Zen rock gardens.
While the house will foster a sense of “care and social welfare,” the systems that drive it will be cutting edge, Ally notes. The design includes high-tech photovoltaic systems to harness solar energy for heating and cooling the house; a rainwater harvesting system for use in the gardens; and innovative shading and monitoring systems.
News of CUA’s selection for the Solar Decathlon comes during the architecture and planning school’s celebration of its 100th anniversary, a fitting accomplishment for the largest architecture school in the Washington, D.C. area.
|A northeast view of Team Capitol D.C. Harvest.
“Our selection for the Solar Decathlon is another significant milestone in the rich history of the school,” says Randall Ott, dean of architecture and planning. “The School of Architecture and Planning seeks to instill the attributes of passion, intelligence and skill in each of its students by adhering to a philosophy devoted to the integration of artistic creativity, intellectual curiosity, and technical acuity, which provides fuel for Team Capitol’s success in the 2013 Solar Decathlon.
“The school's mission — building stewardship — focuses on preparing architects and designers to assume a personal responsibility for the welfare of the world and to our human family,” he adds.
As part of the competition, Catholic University will receive $100,000 from DOE to help pay for construction of the house. After the competition, the University will donate the house to Soldier On, a non-profit organization that partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies to provide veterans with housing and support.
Christopher Grech, director of the CUA master’s program in sustainable design, also helped to plan the project.
Ally, who earned a master of architecture at CUA in 1991, says that work on the project started a year ago, as part of the Comprehensive Building Studio that she created. Last fall, two studios — Design Technology and Solar Decathlon — merged into a studio/research class that will work on the project from now until 2013, when it will be installed at the park in California.
“At the architecture school, it’s typical for a project to become a design studio,” says Ally. “It’s a great way to teach students how to research and build using innovative technology.”
Ally notes that the design of the team’s house is inspired by the writings of the American Transcendentalists, particularly New Englanders Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. It also draws inspiration from the Native American long house and the Usonian House designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Team Capitol D.C. proposal is “a home inspired by nature as society’s greatest teacher,” says Ally. “Harvest will be a model for sustainability and a catalyst for design. It signifies the world’s deep ties to nature for sustenance and for spirituality. Harvest is rooted in a balance of humanistic, scientific, and spiritual values.”
George Washington University students will develop the landscaping and the house’s interior and work on the engineering systems. Students from American University will develop print and motion graphics and a film for the project.
The team’s corporate partners include the international engineering firm Arup, construction consultants Held Enloe & Associates, sustainable design build firm GreenSpur, lighting designer George Sexton, graphics design firm Design Army, and TMR Engineering.
Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Planning is the largest architecture school in the Washington, D.C., area. Students utilize the nation’s capital as a laboratory, and design in an exciting studio environment on campus. The pre-professional Bachelor of Science in Architecture degree is awarded after four years of study; an undergraduate joint degree program with the Department of Civil Engineering is awarded after five years of study. The school offers several graduate programs: an accredited Master of Architecture first professional degree, a post-professional Master of Science in Architectural Studies, a Master of City and Regional Planning, and a Master of Science in Sustainable Design. The school also offers five areas of concentration at the master’s level that include Cultural Studies/Sacred Space, Design Technologies, Digital Media, Real Estate Development, and Urban Practice.