Team takes top place at global competition

Queen’s Solar Design troupe joins up as Team Ontario to land sixth place at California engineering fair

Deng Pan, Queen’s Solar Design Team’s business coordinator.
Deng Pan, Queen’s Solar Design Team’s business coordinator.

Queen’s Solar Design Team went global at an energy engineering competition held in California last week, placing sixth overall out of 19 international teams as part of Team Ontario.

The Queen’s team joined with students from Carleton University and Algonquin College for the competition, the bi-annual United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, which lasted nine days.

The purpose of the competition was for each team to build a house that demonstrated net zero positive living.

This meant that the house used as much energy as it produced, or produced more energy than used.

The goal was to show that an energy-efficient house could be attractive, affordable and comfortable, Deng Pan, business coordinator for the team, said.

Team Ontario also placed second in the affordability category, with the house costing about $257,000 in total. Costs for houses ranged from $200,000 to $300,000.

The team began working on the project in Nov. 2011 when they submitted their competition proposal.

The work continued until this October when part of the team travelled to Irvine, California to construct the house on-site — a process with a limit of nine days.

From Sept. 23 to Oct. 1, teams constructed the house in Irvine, with the actual competition taking place from Oct. 3 to 13, where the teams gave public tours of their houses along with being judged by a jury panel.

After the competition, the teams were also required to deconstruct the house in six days, beginning Oct. 14.

Each house had to have a fully-furnished interior living space of below 1,000 square feet and demonstrate that it could function in a simulated real living environment.

“We did a hot water draw every morning from Oct. 3-12 and did laundry some days,” Pan, ArtSci ’16, said, “We also hosted two dinner parties and a movie night.” Team Ontario designed a house called ECHO, which stands for Ecological Home.

The house had 940 square feet of interior living space as well as 500 square feet of deck space outside.

ECHO had five main features: an energy monitoring application, an integrated mechanical system, a predictive shading system, vacuum insulation panels and photo voltaics along with solar thermal panels.

The predicted shading system, which was built as part of ECHO, contributed to Team Ontario’s first place finish in the engineering category.

The system collected weather data and proactively put window shades on when the sun was predicted to be shining into the house.

In total, there were 19 teams that participated at Irvine, including two European teams from Austria and the Czech Republic and multiple US teams, from universities like, such as Stanford, California Institute of Technology and Univeresity of California at Los Angeles.

“The biggest challenge for us in this project happened during the design phase,” Pan said.

“We had to figure out how to design a house that could be constructed in nine days, deconstructed in six days, and be shipped 3,000 miles away.”

The house will be reconstructed in Ottawa and maintained by students at Algonquin College to test its durability throughout the Canadian winter. “Seeing our hard work pay off was really important and exciting,” Pan said.


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