January 30, 2006

Team Begins Work on Solar House

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After a second place finish in the 2005 Solar Decathlon, Cornell students have begun preparing for next year’s competition. Each team in the decathlon designs and constructs a house which runs only on solar power.

The newly assembled Cornell team is in the preliminary stages of preparation. One of the team leaders, Andrew Chessen ’08, said, “This semester is dedicated entirely to design and we expect to be constructing sometime next fall.”

Team members have their eyes set on a first place finish.

“There is a tremendous push to do one point better than last year,” Chessen said. He listed the University of Colorado, MIT and Georgia Tech as the team’s main rivals in the competition.

Chessen said last year’s team faltered in some of the less technical components of the project, including Communications and Documentation.

The new Communications Team Leader Bryan Wolin ’08 said, “The onus is really on my shoulders” to improve upon the team’s weakness in communications.

Although non-technical areas are most in need of a score boost, the team is still making every effort to improve the technology used in the design.

The Control Team Leader, Jeff Gunther ’08 said the team is looking to use more efficient technologies.

“For the next house we’re looking to do home automation with lighting and climate control,” he said.

Gunther also said that the team is hoping to use remote access technology, so the house can be controlled using a cell phone or remote control.

As in the previous competition, the Cornell team is comprised of students from all schools and studies.

Another one of the team’s leaders, Bernardo Menezes ’08 said, “Cornell is in a very unique position because we have people in every discipline willing to help out. It’s a huge advantage; we were the only team with landscaping [in the 2005 competition] because we were the only school with a landscape architecture program.”

The team takes advantage of this diversity by dividing up the tasks among teams specialized teams. There are now three separate business teams, a communications team and a design and construction team.

Some of the group’s important tasks include fundraising, advertising and design and assembly.

“One of the selling points of our team is that it’s more or less student run,” Wolin said. The team’s advisors, Zellman Warhaft, mechanical and aerospace engineering and Nick Rajkovich, architecture, only get involved when the team needs extra guidance, he said.

As a result of the previous team’s success and the prominence of the first solar house, which is now displayed on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Quad, the projects’ popularity has grown.

“About 60 people showed up [to our first meeting]