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Thinking Outside the Box (An International Shipping Container)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

By Amy Vaughn

All overseas teams that have competed in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon have shipped their house sections in an international shipping container or made their house section the same size as one. This is very convenient because handling, lifting, and moving an international shipping container is relatively easy and no extra paperwork is required for transport on public roads.

However, Virginia Tech’s Lumenhaus has set a new standard for what is possible for overseas teams. Most teams in Solar Decathlon Europe have limited the size of their house modules or pieces to standard trucking dimensions or smaller. However, Lumenhaus is a single module that is 16 feet 2 inches wide and 66 feet long. Virginia Tech was able to roll its house on and off a ship. It took a little more planning to find a ship docks capable of handling its house, but the team did it. The roads in Spain accommodated the over-width house, although extra permits were required.

The University of Florida also moved large house sections to the Solar Decathlon Europe Villa Solar. Because the sections were assembled 25 kilometers from the Villa Solar, the team had to transport a very wide load across Madrid. But with only 10 days of assembly at the Solar Villa, this method extended the team’s time to construct the house in Spain.

A student from Brazil told me that his team had seriously considered shipping its house pieces by air. It seems there are a few large cargo planes that deliver equipment all around the world. From Brazil, shipping by air required less paperwork and had similar costs but was much quicker than ship. Unfortunately, Team Brazil withdrew from Solar Decathlon Europe, so this transportation method remains possible but untried. Seven Brazilian students and two faculty advisors came anyway to help the Solar Decathlon Europe organizers.

Byron Stafford is the site operations manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Throughout the Solar Decathlon Europe competition, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon organizers are reporting from Madrid.

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