Middlebury Students Build Solar Decathlon House

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(Host)  A team of Middlebury College students has been working for two years to design and build an affordable, innovative and attractive solar powered house.  Their goal?  To win the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon contest.    

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck) Middlebury College senior Addison Godine crouches to sand wooden trim around a doorway.   

(Godine) "During the summer, I’m probably here about 10-12 hours a day."

(Keck) While Godine works inside the house, a half dozen other students are outside, unloading lumber, cutting siding and watering bushes that will line the deck.

(Godine) "Yeah, it’s been a lot of work, but it’s finally paying off.  The house looks as good as we could have hoped considering we’re the liberal arts team, the team of undergraduates against Cal Tech and all sorts of engineering schools like that.  We’re the underdogs, but we think we’ll do okay.

(Keck) Competition in the Solar Decathlon is fierce. Every two years, collegiate teams from all over the world compete to build a 100 percent solar powered house­. Middlebury’s design has two bedrooms, one bathroom and a large open area that includes a living room, study area, loft, kitchen and dining nook.

(Segil) "People are immediately taken by the amount of light in the house. I think people also really like the kitchen."

(Keck) That’s Melissa Segil. She and teammate Jesse Catalano say they spent a lot of time on design.   Catalano points to industrial type shelves that turn what had been empty space in front of kitchen windows into a greenhouse.

(Catalano) "The idea is you’ll be able to start seedlings here – and then as I’m standing in this space, turn around grab herbs grab lettuce – whatever – turn back this way where I have my cook top, stove and sink and prepare what I’d like.   Very little movement, lots of thought."    

(Keck) Students have generated the ideas, but professional builders and contractors have helped with nearly every step. The Department of Energy gave each of the twenty finalists $100,000. But Addison Godine says with construction, travel and everything else, they’ll spend six times that – so fundraising and marketing havealso been a big part of the project.

(Godine) "What we’ve learned is that the solar decathlon is more like a marathon because it requires dedication at such a high level for such a long time."

(Keck) While team Middlebury’s house is nearly finished, the team faces one final challenge – they have to take it all apart, truck it to Washington, D.C. and put it all back together again on the National Mall.  

(Keck) Sitting on the deck as a load of lumber is dropped off, Addison Godine rolls his eyes at the thought – but then smiles as he looks at the house. At Middlebury, he says students learn a lot about problems in the world – especially environmental ones.

(Godine) "And this competition is our opportunity to create a solution to these problems. Which is an amazing opportunity."

(Keck) The winner will be chosen October 1st.

For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck in Middlebury.

(Host) The U.S. Department of Energy has videos from all twenty teams on their website

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