The Catholic University of America

Feb. 27, 2013

Students From CUA, AU, GWU Work Together as Team Capitol DC in Solar Decathlon


Students from CUA's School of Architecture and planning work on HARVEST HOME.

In a welcome break from D.C.’s climate of gridlock, students and faculty from Catholic, George Washington, and American universities worked together this morning on a house for the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, an international sustainable home competition.

This collaborative team of 75 students began construction on a one-of-a-kind, energy-efficient home custom-designed to foster the healing of a U.S. military veteran.

“This is an opportunity that’s undescribable,” said Kyle Noell, a graduate student in CUA’s Master of Science in Sustainable Design program. “This is more of a learning experience than I ever could have hoped for. It’s great to be able to work with professionals every day and get to tap into the knowledge of students not only within my own school, but also at other universities. It opens up a larger level of dialogue and adds to the depth and impact of the project.”

The partnership represents an unprecedented collaboration across academic disciplines and universities for the citywide “Team Capitol DC,” which includes architecture students from CUA; engineering, landscape and interior design students from GWU; and communication students from AU.


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“It’s both exciting and a challenge to bring three universities together to build a house of this scale,” said Randy Ott, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America.

The team will build its zero-energy-output house, “HARVEST HOME,” on the campus of Catholic University through May, and then deconstruct and move it across the country in the summer to compete against 19 other teams in the Solar Decathlon 2013, which takes place Oct. 3-13 in Irvine, Calif.

“By collaborating in a citywide effort, the universities of Team Capitol DC will better be able to showcase their premier programs and pull the best ideas and knowledge from each school, rather than compete against each other,” Ott said.

Team Capitol DC is using a unique approach to combine innovative architecture with engineering to create a home that harvests as much energy as it produces. The team’s house will be built using sustainable resources such as reclaimed materials, natural ventilation, solar panels, solar thermal systems, and water collection systems in order to harvest natural energy and remain self-sustaining.

Communications students from American University film the construction of HARVEST HOME.


The home’s design elements will also take into account its future resident, a wounded U.S. military veteran, and ensure a primary focus on physical and mental healing. By utilizing sustainable materials, incorporating efficient features, and employing advanced biomedical technology to monitor and adjust to the resident’s physical and mental condition, the home will promote a sense of well-being.

“Student design experiences usually end without ever building the real product,” said W. M. Kim Roddis, professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at The George Washington University. “With Harvest Home, the students dive into the harder and richer lessons of how to take their design ideas from paper to a complete and complicated functioning system. The student team is amazing."

Team members have also designed the home so it can be easily transported to California Previous competitions have taken place in D.C. Launched in 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition that challenges collegiate teams from across the world to design and build sustainable, energy-efficient housing.



ABOUT TEAM CAPITOL DC: For the first time, a city-wide Washington, D.C., collegiate team – Catholic University (CUA), George Washington University (GWU) and American University (AU) – will compete as Team Capitol DC in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. Follow the teams progress online:
Twitter: @TeamCapitolDC

ABOUT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SOLAR DECATHLON: The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 will take place Oct. 3–13, 2013, at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

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