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Collaborative Research and Education in the Design and Building of a Net-Zero Energy Solar Powered House – Testimony of a Solar Decathlon 2013 Entry

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2014 ASEE International Forum


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 14, 2014

Start Date

June 14, 2014

End Date

June 14, 2014

Conference Session

Track 1b - Session 1

Tagged Topic

Curriculum and Lab Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

20.7.1 - 20.7.14



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Paper Authors

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Valentina Cecchi University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Mona Azarbayjani University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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Brett Tempest University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Collaborative Research and Education in the Design and Building of a Net-Zero Energy Solar Powered House – Testimony of a Solar Decathlon 2013 EntryThis paper provides a testimony of the experience and the lessons learned during the design,construction and presentation of a net-zero energy house as part of the 2013 U.S. Department ofEnergy (DoE) Solar Decathlon competition. The Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition whichchallenges international collegiate teams to design, build, and operate net-zero energy solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Like the OlympicDecathlon, the Solar Decathlon consists of 10 contests: juried contests (engineering, architecture,market appeal, communications and affordability) and measured contests (comfort zone, hotwater, appliances, home entertainment and energy balance). The purpose of the competition isboth educative – educational experience for the participating students, for the general public, forthe building industry and the policy makers – and research oriented – encouraging multi-disciplinary collaboration towards development of new technologies and methods.The paper discusses the educational experience of the students participating in this internationalcompetition, focusing on the engineering undergraduate students. It describes the planimplemented for integrating the Solar Decathlon into the required curricula within theengineering, architecture, and business departments. A project as large and diverse as this onerequired accommodating curricular development at various levels and within various modes ofteaching and learning. Students were encouraged to participate in the process in five ways:design studios, research labs and seminars, special topics, construction, and monitoring.Although the greatest learning experience for the students occurred in the integrated designprocess – across engineering disciplines, and school of architecture – the student team membersalso learned how to raise funds, procure materials and construction equipment, and how tointeract with one another towards a mutual goal.The project provided an opportunity for the development and implementation of new educationalmaterials focused on energy efficiency, sustainable building design, solar energy, and powerconversion and conditioning technologies. Being part of a large and varied team seeing a projectfrom the preliminary design phase to construction and commissioning, the students wereprovided with a true multi-disciplinary hands-on opportunity. The opportunity proved tostrengthen their technical skills, acquired in the regular curriculum, via integration of theoreticalknowledge and practical experience. Moreover, the students were exposed to the perspectiveand educational styles of professors and students in each represented academic department(electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, civil and environmentalengineering, architecture, marketing and communications). Organized in a multi-disciplinaryformat, students were then able to share their strengths across disciplines and contribute to asynthesis of process and product.

Cecchi, V., & Azarbayjani, M., & Tempest, B. (2014, June), Collaborative Research and Education in the Design and Building of a Net-Zero Energy Solar Powered House – Testimony of a Solar Decathlon 2013 Entry Paper presented at 2014 ASEE International Forum, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--17170

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