Solar Decathlon 2015: Missouri S&T Builds Solar Nest (Video)

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Originally published on 1Sun4All.

The Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) team started its home design for the Solar Decathlon 2015 with ideas to build a sustainable home that can be expanded as the family grows. The Nest Home is constructed using repurposed shipping containers which give this flexibility, and the student design team reused exterior siding and recycled the home’s insulation. In addition to being a net-zero energy home, Nest Home incorporates a greywater system and can be downsized when the children are grown and leave the nest.

Ernie Tucker, writing for the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team says the Missouri S&T team is building the latest addition to its campus colony of student-designed, energy-efficient houses. The team is creating a “nest” to compete in Solar Decathlon 2015. After the October competition, the Nest Home — designed for a growing family — will return to the Rolla, Missouri, campus to take its place alongside the school’s 2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2013 Solar Decathlon competition houses as part of a student housing and research site.

“Our team has been around so long, it enables us to see the effects of the projects from the past,” says Mary Puleo, a junior from St. Louis who is the Nest Home project manager.

Years of Solar Decathlon participation have enabled the university’s vision to extend beyond the competition to include a range of renewable energy outreach initiatives within the community. The team holds 3 to 6 events each month — hosting Scout troops, offering community and student showcases, and spreading the word about sustainable living.

Missouri solar decathlon

Puleo says that having a team in so many Solar Decathlons means that “we have a really strong support system.” For example, this year’s team includes several 2013 decathletes who are helping Puleo and about 60 teammates prepare for the 2015 solar showdown in Irvine, California. Students are involved throughout the entire process, from initial proposal through conceptual design and final construction. This experiential learning opportunity allows undergraduates to gain hands-on experience outside the classroom and work closely with both consultants and skilled tradesmen.

The 2015 house is designed to serve a family “from a full nest to an empty nest” and will be built using local recycled materials as much as possible. The core structure consists of three repurposed shipping containers that form a deconstructed triangular space similar to a bird’s nest. Although this open-floor concept is designed to work for a couple and small children in two bedrooms, it also allows the possibility of adding or subtracting recycled containers to modify the living quarters as needed.

Missouri solar decathlon

The team’s dedicated approach attracted Puleo when she was a freshman in 2012. Over time, her bonds to the undergraduate decathletes have grown along with her duties.

“It’s great to see others finding the passion for this type of project,” she says. Originally working as director of finance, she took over as project manager in August 2014.

“Every day, I’m pushing my boundaries,” says the environmental engineering student. “But this is a tremendous opportunity, something regular students don’t experience — and something I’ll always value because it helps you figure out what you want to do in life.”

Puleo says the Nest Home experience will launch fledgling careers in fields that can impact the future and promote sustainability. She’s proud to be part of a long-standing tradition — and a new beginning. The Nest Home crew joins the rest, she says, in the Solar Decathlon experience, which “empowers us to find ways to keep the world going.”

The computer-animated walkthrough of Nest Home Video Credit: DOE Solar Decathlon 2015 | Photo Credit: Amy Vaughn & Carol Laurie via U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

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Amber Archangel

-- I am an artist, painter, writer, interior designer, graphic designer, and constant student of many studies. Living with respect for the environment close at hand, the food chain, natural remedies for healing the earth, people and animals is a life-long expression and commitment. As half of a home-building team, I helped design and build harmonious, sustainable and net-zero homes that incorporate clean air systems, passive and active solar energy as well as rainwater collection systems. Private aviation stirs a special appeal, I would love to fly in the solar airplane and install a wind turbine in my yard. I am a peace-loving, courageous soul, and I am passionate about contributing to the clean energy revolution. I formerly designed and managed a clean energy website,

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