NYIT Students Make a Solar Difference

Event: 2007 Solar Decathlon
Location: National Mall, Washington D.C., 10.12-20.07
Organizers: U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

OPEN House

NYIT architecture students Matthew Mathosian, architecture team leader (left); Matthew Vecchione, student project manager (roof); and Ryan Knippenberg work on constructing OPEN House, NYIT’s entry in to the 2007 Solar Decathlon.

Angela Marshall, courtesy NYIT

“A majority of students participate in the Solar Decathlon because they truly want to make a difference in the world by reducing traditional energy consumption or to acquaint themselves with solar power and energy-efficient technologies,” says Daniel Rapka, an engineering graduate student and engineering team leader of the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Solar Decathlon 2007 team. This fall, NYIT students will transport their solar home to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to compete against 19 international colleges and universities in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Decathlon 2007. NYIT is the only college selected from the NY metropolitan area to compete.

The international contest challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate the most energy-efficient solar-powered home. NYIT’s entry, OPEN House, features two main components: a 480-square-foot open space and a manifold (or core). The open floor plan creates flexible zones to accommodate multiple functions, allowing the occupant to customize their living space. The south-side glass wall visually connects inhabitants to the outside world and fills the living space with natural sunlight throughout the day. The core contains the kitchen, bathroom, and the electrical and mechanical systems.

Smart House technology will provide the dweller with additional flexibility, convenience, and comfort. The home’s automation and control system allows efficient control and the scheduling or maintenance of household functions, such as air temperature, lighting, and appliances. Since the team is unable to dig into the ground on the National Mall, a roof pond above the home’s core will serve as a model of what a geothermal source would be doing on a logistical level. The pond will be a hybrid feature of the solar house — it models a geothermal system by providing a source or sink for thermal energy and also acts as a passive collector or radiator depending on the season. If the home needs heating, energy can be pulled from the pond to heat the home and if the home needs cooling, the excess energy from the house will be stored in the pond.

NYIT’s interdisciplinary, multi-campus team is composed of more than 75 undergraduate and graduate students studying architecture, engineering, interior design, communication arts, marketing, and culinary arts. Faculty members from each department serve as project advisors. “Students participating in the Solar Decathlon have a unique opportunity to gain real-world experience through hands-on learning and interdisciplinary education,” says Matthew Vecchione, a fifth-year architecture student and student project manager of NYIT’s Solar Decathlon 2007 team.

Competition guidelines require that all homes be a maximum of 800 square feet. An overall winner is determined based on the teams’ scores in 10 categories: architecture; engineering; market viability; communications; comfort zone; appliances; hot water; lighting; energy balance; and getting around (track mileage of electric car). The DOE provides all 20 teams with an electric car to help transport the house, and $100,000 to support the project. To raise additional funds and encourage public support and sponsorship, the team has appeared at conventions and sustainable conferences, and has invited green-friendly businesses to attend team presentations.

Solar Decathlon 2007 will be on view to the public October 12-20. More information about NYIT’s Solar Decathlon entry can be found online. The entry is also included in the arch schools: r(each)ing out exhibition at the Center for Architecture through October 19 (See On View: At the Center for Architecture).