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Solar Decathlon Buffalo


Solar Decathlon 2015: U at Buffalo GRoWs Solar House-New Roster

Originally published on 1Sun4All.

The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 has brought us another team concept in its award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate net-zero energy, solar-powered houses. Solar Decathlon has also announced a new team lineup and that information is available at the end of this article. The house that the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, team is building has a lot of potential to offer an enhanced lifestyle with the opportunity to grow the family’s food, as well as herbs, and maybe some prized flowering plants. Enjoy the following news from Ernie Tucker, a member of the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team:

Upstate Buffalo, New York, isn’t typically associated with gardens. More people probably envision Buffalo covered in the lake-effect snow of frigid Lake Erie than in greenery.

But the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, team may change that. Its Garden, Relax, or Work (GRoW) House includes the GRoWlarium, a built-in 338-ft2 greenhouse.

“We have a long and cold winter, but surprisingly, there’s a lot of outdoor, urban gardening in Buffalo. People say having the cold makes an even more lush growing season in the summer,” says Amanda Mumford, a member of the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Solar Decathlon team.

Solar Decathlon Buffalo

Members of the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York team gather at the Orange County Great Park on January 9, 2015. | Photo Credit: Carol Laurie/US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

While discussing a “solarium” during the project design phase, the team coined the GRoWlarium term to capture its concept and reflect its city.

“Around the school, community gardens are springing up on vacant lots,” Amanda Mumford says. And this movement inspired the team. “We really wanted to embrace complete sustainability and the idea that people can grow their own food at home,” Amanda Mumford continued.

The team, whose approximately 30 members range from freshmen to doctoral candidates, believes that users of a GRoW-style house can avoid high costs for farming and shipping produce. And there’s more. The holistic vision allows for flexibility in use.

“It’s really a dynamic living space as well,” says Amanda Mumford, an environmental design major from Long Island, New York.

Adapting to seasonal changes, a resident can open up the GRoWlarium or seal it off from the rest of the house while still allowing for year-round harvests. Also, the greenhouse “lets light in the house and can be tailored throughout the seasons. In summer, you can put your plants outside, too,” Amanda Mumford says.

The concept works in concert with the rest of GRoW House, which consists of a 770-ft2 fully enclosed living space that is heated and air-conditioned. The dwelling space is enclosed in a thick thermal shell and has two units: a bedroom with a central living space and a kitchen with potential for canning and storing home-grown produce.

Solar Decathlon Buffalo Buffalo Rendering

The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York’s Garden, Relax, or Work (GRoW) House includes the GRoWlarium, a built-in 338-ft2 greenhouse. | Photo Credit: Solar Decathlon 2015 University at Buffalo, The State University of New York team.

The team plans to continue planting seeds about renewable energy and sustainability after the competition. It thinks GRoW House will end up taking root on the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York campus, next to the architectural school where it was born, to serve as a research tool for the community and a location for seminars on community gardens and energy efficiency.

“We’re really excited to see it built,” says Amanda Mumford.

Ultimately, the team hopes GRoW House will put Buffalo back on the map as an “innovator and model for sustainability” and a place known for its verdant green, not icy white.

US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 New Team Lineup

The Solar Decathlon organizers have updated the 2015 team roster with the news from the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Director Richard King that Team Tennessee, comprising Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University, has withdrawn from the Solar Decathlon 2015 competition.

We’re disappointed to lose Team Tennessee in the 2015 competition. At our workshop in Irvine, the team members showed commitment and enthusiasm for their project. They’ve worked hard over the past year, and I know this is a disappointment for them, their faculty, and their many supporters. –Richard King said.

The team indicated it will continue working with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville and will finish building the house.

The updated Solar Decathlon 2015 16 team roster includes:

  • California Polytechnic State University
  • California State University, Sacramento
  • Clemson University
  • Crowder College and Drury University
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • New York City College of Technology
  • State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • University of Florida, National University of Singapore, and Santa Fe College
  • The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen
  • University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine; Saddleback College; Chapman University; and Irvine Valley College
  • West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata
  • Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana
  • Yale University.

FYI: It’s interesting to note that 14 teams competed in the inaugural Solar Decathlon competition which was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2002.

If you’re thinking about attending: This year’s competition is scheduled to take place at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California from October 8 through October 18.

The Solar Decathlon competition houses will be open to visitors — free of charge — from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily on eight days over two weekends:

  • Thursday, October 8–Sunday, October 11, 2015.
  • Thursday, October 15–Sunday, October 18, 2015.
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