Monday Minute, March 8, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

You may know that we had wanted to participate again in the Solar Decathlon after having done so well in the last competition, coming in first in engineering and lighting design and fifth overall.

While the Icon House was successful in almost every way, it fell far short, however, when it came to our fund-raising goals. Because of the recession the project ended up several hundred thousand dollars in debt. The University plans to sell the house to recoup some of the shortfall, but we have decided not to compete again, unwilling to sustain another loss of this magnitude.

Because of the exceptional learning opportunity the Solar Decathlon competition provided, we want to pursue a lower-cost local version of it. Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) research fellow Dan Handeen, who helped lead the last project, has had conversations with Habitat for Humanity, who sound interested in partnering with us to design and build an affordable, energy-efficient house, with greatly reduced heating and cooling costs. We would pattern this project after the Solar Decathlon process, with interdisciplinary teams of students working on it, but we would like to at least break even so that we can continue to do projects like this in the future. I'll let you know as we know more.