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Students Set Up Solar Homes in D.C.

Students Set Up Solar Homes in D.C.

Wed Sep 25, 2002, 7:32 PM ET

By JEFFREY McMURRAY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - When Auburn University's architecture and engineering students teamed up to build an aesthetically pleasing yet technologically advanced solar-powered home, everything went smoothly.

Until it was time to pick out the light fixtures.

The architects wanted an oversized dome lamp for the hallway, but the engineers vetoed it as inefficient. They ultimately settled on one that was attractive but not elaborate and required little power.

In the Solar Decathlon, a contest conceived by the Department of Energy, students from 14 universities designed homes equipped with televisions, stoves, refrigerators, washers, dryers and computers — but no electricity.

Collectively, the homes — most with less than 500 usable square feet — make up a solar village on display this week on the National Mall, the grassy space between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Each school received a startup grant of $5,000, but trophies and prestige — not money — are the only prizes.

"Many people have an image of solar power as something a long way off, and it doesn't have to be," said Energy spokesman Christopher Powers.

Students were only required to create the design, and some schools handed the actual construction off to contractors. But Auburn raised $250,000 and let students handle every detail, from wiring the power inverter box to sanding the back porch.

"I've already got a built house under my belt at age 21," said Lesley Hoke, an Auburn architecture student.

A home designed by students from the University of Missouri-Rolla concealed the solar requirements in a cottage filled with beautiful woodwork, including a bookshelf opening into the bedroom.

"We didn't want people to necessarily associate solar-powered with futuristic," said Amy Schneider, a civil engineering student. "It's really just a typical Missouri home."

The University of Virginia's home had copper siding to highlight solar panels. A greenhouse sits on the roof, and a device recycles rainwater to irrigate the surrounding garden.

The participating schools are: Auburn University, Carnegie Mellon University, Crowder College, Texas A&M University, Tuskegee University, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Delaware, University of Maryland, University of Missouri-Rolla, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, University of Puerto Rico, University of Texas-Austin, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

September 25, 2002

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