On Friday, March 20, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant Jr. will visit Virginia Tech to tour a solar house being built by students for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Bryant, who also heads Gov. Tim Kaine’s Commission on Climate Change, will

  • Tour the Virginia Tech solar house under construction at the Research and Demonstration Facility on Plantation Road at 10:30 a.m.;
  • Attend a lecture at the Ferrari Symposium about the solar house project at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center at 11:30 a.m.; and
  • Pull the winning ticket from among the roughly 1,000 tickets sold in the students’ electric car raffle, a fund raiser conducted to help fund the solar house project.

For three weeks in October 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy will host the Solar Decathlon. Virginia Tech is one of 20 international university teams — and the only one in Virginia this year — selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The houses will be assembled and displayed for the competition on the National Mall in Washington D.C., and will be open to the public for touring Oct. 9 through Oct.18, 2009.

The Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon student team and lead faculty — Robert Schubert, associate dean of research; Robert Dunay, the T. A. Carter Professor of Architecture; and Joseph Wheeler, associate professor of architecture — will present the house in its current stage of construction. The structural form, assembled in New Jersey, was brought to Blacksburg using a transport system developed for the 2005 solar house. Recently, the concrete floor was poured comprising a radiant heating system. Other components, such as sliding insulation panels and shutter screens, will advance the theme “Responsive Architecture” in a house that quickly adapts to user requirements and changing environmental conditions. Many items for the house, such as the photovoltaic panels and heat pumps, are in hand and awaiting installation.

Virginia Tech last participated in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2005, when the team won first place the categories of Best Livability, Best Architecture, Best Daylighting, Best Electric Lighting, and fourth overall. In addition, the house was the American Institute of Architects (AIA) award for Best House and an award for Excellence in Architecture from the Virginia Society, AIA.

The car being raffled is a two-seat GEM e2 produced by Daimler-Chrysler. It is street legal and, because it uses no gas, costs about $60 per year to operate. The GEM e2 produces no emissions and can be charged on any regular household outlet. Tickets were sold for $10 each; the team raised nearly $10,000 for their project. The raffle winner will be notified by phone and e-mail. The winner will also be announced on the Virginia Tech News website and on the Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon team’s website. The raffle was conducted through the American Institute of Architecture Students.

The Solar Decathlon is an educational project of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and is supported by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and event and team sponsors from the private sector. Sponsors of the Virginia Tech solar house include Solar Platinum Benefactor ConocoPhilips and in-kind contributors Häfele and A. Zahner Company. To make a donation to the team, visit the team’s website.

Design Intelligence 2009 logoVirginia Tech's architecture program, in the School of Architecture + Design, has been recognized as one of America's World-Class Schools of Architecture with highest distinction, tied with Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Universities. The multidimensional ranking by Design Intelligence, the only national college ranking survey focused exclusively on design, is based on five criteria: current rankings by professional practices; historic 10-year rankings by professional practices; rankings by academic department deans and chairs; overall campus environment and student evaluations; and program accreditation.

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