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A Race Against Time

Monday, September 23, 2013

By Richard King

It is hard enough to get selected as one of the 20 university teams to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, then to spend two years designing and building a competition house on campus, and finally to transport that house to the Solar Decathlon competition. But now it’s a race against time to reassemble the house at the competition site in California in just nine days.

Photo of several decathletes in safety gear walking down Decathlete way. Cranes line both sides.

Cranes dominate the skyline of the Solar Decathlon village on the first day of assembly at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. (Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Solar Decathlon 2013 is being held at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. The competition is the culmination of two years of hard work. But as the teams arrived on Monday, Sept. 23, an even more arduous task confronted them: how to get their house reassembled in such a short time. As the house nears completion, the teams are required to pass a variety of inspections—including building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and final safety inspections—to ensure compliance with local building codes.

A sense of urgency was in the air as the 400-plus decathletes charged down Runway 7L into the Solar Decathlon village at the Great Park. As trucks rolled in with sections of houses and equipment, students prepared their lots to begin the process of reassembling their houses. It’s the most exhilarating experience you can imagine. A beehive of activity with focused concentration on the end game—finishing on time so they can be ready to compete.

Photo of the Santa Clara house. One decathlete stands on the roof while another kneels in the front of the lot.

Santa Clara University had its main house modules in place by the end of the first day of assembly. (Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

By the end of the day on Monday, an amazing amount of work was completed. Although most teams felt good about their progress, there is still much to do. We wish them well as the week progresses.

Richard King is director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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