Interview: Team Ontario Hopes to Shine at Solar Decathlon
The US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is bringing teams from all over North America to Irvine, California to showcase their solar-powered homes. The event, scheduled for the fall of 2013, will see teams compete in ten events including architecture, engineering, energy efficiency, marketability and affordability. As one of two Canadian teams selected for next year’s biennial competition, Team Ontario tells us about their submission below.
[OSP] What were the driving forces for Team Ontario’s submission to the Solar Decathlon?
Our team’s ultimate goal is to create a livable and practical home of the future, where net-zero homes are desirable and carried forth as the norm. As the Solar Decathlon is one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind, we saw a successful entry into the competition as a perfect opportunity to showcase our concept of “Evolved Living” – a smart, efficient and affordable home catered to the next generation of homeowners. It is this concept that brought our institutions together, as all our students are quite passionate about addressing the need for high-performance housing as well as the growing market of young homeowners in Canada.
[OSP] What value does collaboration between Carleton, Queens and Algonquin College bring to your Solar Decathlon team?
A collaboration between three institutions allows our team to draw from a wide array of expertise in various disciplines including engineering, architectural design, architectural technology, advanced-housing construction, and business. In having such a diverse skill set within our student team, we are confident that we will be able to fulfill our goal of having a student-driven project.
[OSP] What components of the Aurora Home is your team most excited to showcase?
There are many features about the Aurora Home that we are thrilled to showcase. These include a 6-8kW PV system, advanced wall designs using Panasonic vacuum insulated panels, solar thermal space heating, domestic hot water systems, and a liquid dessicant dehumidification system that uses solar thermal energy to dehumidify the house in the summer. Furthermore, we plan to feature an integrated building automation system where all components of the house will be controlled and monitored through a single system. This would include lighting, heating, predictive shading controls, and even the locks on the house. For instance, if you’re running late for work, a remote device such as an iPad or Android tablet would allow you to turn off your lights and ensure all the doors are locked while in your car. Again, we are really excited about this concept of Evolved Living, where the next generation of homeowners are fully aware of their consumption and sustainable living is made easy.
[OSP] Are there any parts of your Solar Home that are already or will soon be available to the general public?
We are aiming to have the house completed in advance of the competition and have it on display to the public for most of the summer of 2013. We also currently have an educational centre on Queen’s campus called the Queen’s Solar Educational Centre (QSEC). This facility acts as an educational tool for the local community as well as a research tool for our team. Our engineering students are able to install systems in this home, run tests, and ensure the most efficient systems are used in the Aurora Home for the Solar Decathlon competition. The QSEC will be available for touring to the public throughout this coming spring and summer.
[OSP] Does your experience with challenges that Canadian homes face give your design an advantage or disadvantage in the competition?
Designing our home for the cold Canadian climate requires our team to build a much tighter, more insulated house, which will help us maintain the required temperatures for the competition. At the same time, we are designing for Canada’s hot humid summers to ensure our house performs equally well in the summer as it does in the winter. By having to design the Aurora Home for the seasonal extremes of the Canadian climate, we have a larger design challenge ahead of us. However, we feel that in the end, a home suited to both seasons will give us a competitive advantage in the competition. As well, our team is always up for a good challenge!
[OSP] What new knowledge or technology do you feel will be the most pertinent/helpful/informative to future home builders?
We believe a lot of the technologies we are incorporating into the house are applicable to homeowners and home builders today. These include the solar thermal technologies being used for both domestic hot water and space heating, which is a relatively easy and cheap method of bringing heat into the house. Furthermore, our PV system is very pertinent to home builders, especially under the Feed in Tariff (FIT) program. Our system could be installed on most houses and can provide an energy and economic benefit to the future owners of the house.
[OSP] Have you considered a FIT or microFIT installation of your own? We can give you a great deal.
Members of our team have considered a FIT or microFIT installation and are definitely interested to learn more!