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Team Tidewater Breaks Ground on This Year’s Solar Decathlon Entry, ‘Canopy House’

At an enthusiastic ceremony Wednesday morning, Team Tidewater Virginia - the joint Old Dominion University/Hampton University student group competing in the Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon - broke ground on its 2013 entry, Canopy House.

Among those attending the groundbreaking ceremony on the HU campus were U.S. Rep Bobby Scott and Richard King of the DOE, founder and director of the Solar Decathlon. King paid tribute to the 2011 entry by Team Tidewater in the biannual competition, Unit 6 Unplugged, which finished in 14th place.

In his remarks to the crowd of about 100, King noted how respectably Team Tidewater had competed in 2011. He said the team's 14th-place finish would have been higher if the house had met the energy generation threshold required during a cold, rainy week. "Your team was just under, and if you'd made it, you would have finished in seventh place," King said.

"Now that you're back, I'm sure the lessons you learned will make you a dark-horse competitor to win the entire competition."

The DOE Solar Decathlon tests university teams' efforts to design and build a net-zero energy home. Team Tidewater Virginia is one of 20 schools from around the world that will compete in the 2013 Solar Decathlon finals in Irvine, Calif., from Oct. 3-13.

The Canopy House, inspired by the forest canopy, will feature a canopy that spreads above the home as the roof. The unique roof's solar panels will harness the power of the sun, both as an energy-efficient method for providing heat and electricity and as an integral foundation for the home's innovative technology.

The Canopy House also integrates universal design strategies, making sustainable living accessible to all people, regardless of physical impairments and limitations. In addition, it is designed to allow its owners to age-in-place comfortably, safely and smartly.

Oktay Baysal, the dean of ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, told the crowd he is proud that the university is so engaged in such a great cause, and one that engages engineering and architecture students in hands-on, real-world learning.

"These students are forming teams. They face time pressure, fiscal pressure and, at the competition finals, a competitive spirit," Baysal said. "This competition has also brought these two great institutions together for a common cause. It gives us a reason to find even more ways to collaborate in the future."

Construction on the site will begin this spring, before the house is disassembled and shipped across the country to the Solar Decathlon site in California. The Canopy House design has received approval from the Solar Decathlon organizing committee, but will be tinkered with throughout the spring as student architects and engineers test energy concepts on the experimental home.

The 2011 Solar Decathlon entry, Unit 6 Unplugged, has found a permanent home on the ODU campus, and will be used as a facility to display alternative energy concepts and instruction.

As Canopy House rises on the Hampton University campus, information will be available about Team Tidewater and its Solar Decathlon entry at: http://www.canopyhouse.org/index.html.

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