Solar Decathlon Features Hurricane-proof House

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Decathlon officially kicked off today with a ceremony featuring recently appointed DOE Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

In a tweet following the ceremony, Brouillette said that President Donald Trump and Secretary Rick Perry support renewables, including solar. Brouillette also tweeted that he toured the Solar Village, which includes all the teams’ home entries and is now open to the public.

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Among the solar house entries making up the Solar Village is CRETE house — a concrete home built by the Washington University-St. Louis team that the students said is designed to be resilient to storm damage. As parts of the U.S. work to recover from recent hurricanes that devastated energy systems, including completely wiping out Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure, the CRETE house provides a timely message to builders about resiliency and environmental sustainability.

In a video about their project, Dylan Callahan, team member and project manager for the CRETE house, said that the house structure is “massive,” but WashU students worked with industry partners on the home’s design and fabrication.

Team member and construction manager Ethan Miller said that the “concrete is extremely durable, so it’s going to be able to withstand any disaster, even up to tornado force winds.

The house also has a high thermal mass, Miller said, so it will hold heat longer, and it’s going to give off that heat at night. The design, he said, is more sustainable than traditional HVAC systems. Design of the home’s steel connections also considers seismic forces so it can withstand earthquakes.

Callahan said that concrete is typically used in commercial and industrial (C&I) applications, but not as much in residential design.

“By using concrete for our entire house — the foundations, the walls, roof panels, floor panels — in a way that they all tie together so uniquely, we’re using this as a catalyst to possibly have more efficient ways to use concrete in the construction industry in the future at a smaller scale,” he said.

Renewable Energy World will continue to follow the competition and provide updates as the teams progress through the 10 competition events.

Members of the public can vote for their favorite house for the Solar Decathlon People’s Choice Award on Facebook.

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Jennifer Delony, analyst for TransmissionHub, started her career as a B2B news editor in the local and long-distance telecommunications industries in the '90s. Jennifer began covering renewable energy issues at the local level in 2005 and covered U.S. and Canadian utility-scale wind energy as editor of North American Windpower magazine from 2006-2009. She also provides analysis for the oil and natural gas sectors as editor of Oilman Magazine.

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