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Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017

Solar Decathlon Blog - Appalachian State

Below you will find Solar Decathlon news from the Appalachian State archive, sorted by date.

Strong Ties Lead Solar Decathlon Alum to Career With Team Sponsor

Monday, November 10, 2014

By Irene Ying

David Lee works in business development at Lowe’s. He researches new opportunities and new business models that can help the company expand or reach new markets. And he landed this job, he says, thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Lee was the communications manager of the Appalachian State University Solar Decathlon 2011 team, whose Solar Homestead won the People’s Choice Award. Participating in the Solar Decathlon, he says, provided him with invaluable experience and tools that resonate in the business world.

Photo of a young man speaking at a podium surrounded by a group of people.

David Lee accepts the Solar Decathlon 2011 People’s Choice Award on behalf of Appalachian State University. He says the Solar Decathlon was one of the most powerful experiences of his life. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“The process of developing a shared vision and the organizational abilities to carry out that vision are skills I developed through the Solar Decathlon that I put to use constantly in my work,” Lee says. “Additionally, during the competition, it was critical to be able to take the most complex technical specifications of home materials, systems, and technology and communicate those ideas succinctly in a way that anyone could understand.”

During the time Lee worked on the Solar Decathlon, he developed strong ties with team sponsors. Lowe’s was the team’s top sponsor and a sustaining sponsor of Solar Decathlon 2011. After that Solar Decathlon, Lee joined Lowe’s staff.

“The two and a half years I spent on the Appalachian State Solar Decathlon team formed the framework of some of the most influential experiences of my adult life. It gave me opportunities to develop a diverse array of skills, reinforced the value of hard work, facilitated deep personal and professional connections, and it directly led into a rewarding career,” Lee says.

Photo of a smiling young man.

David Lee, a Solar Decathlon 2011 alumnus from Appalachian State University, visited Solar Decathlon 2013 in Irvine, California. He says the Solar Decathlon gave him invaluable experience and skills that directly led to a rewarding career. (Credit: Carol Laurie/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The influence of the Solar Decathlon reaches far beyond offering real-world learning experience to decathletes, Lee says.

“The Solar Decathlon has an impact on every single person who has the chance to see a competition house. These houses show that, without a doubt, living more efficiently and independently, with a smaller environmental impact, in a net-zero-energy home is not something that requires a sacrifice of comfort or is a futuristic pipe dream,” Lee says. “Personal energy independence through affordable efficiency and solar power is a reality that is here today. Sharing that awareness with visitors to the Solar Decathlon is the biggest value that can be delivered.”

Irene Ying is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team.


Appalachian State Wins People’s Choice Award

Saturday, October 1, 2011

By Carol Anna

Appalachian State University won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 People’s Choice Award for its Solar Homestead today. This award gives the public the opportunity to vote for its favorite house. This year, 92,538 votes were cast. The award was announced at a Victory Reception in the solar Village in West Potomac Park—the last official event of Solar Decathlon 2011.

Photo of Steven Chu shaking hands with Jeffrey Tiller as David Lee looks on.

On Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu spoke with Jeffrey Tiller, left, and David Lee, right, members of Appalachian State’s Solar Decathlon team. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“The team’s passion and enthusiasm were contagious,” said Terri Jones, Solar Decathlon Communications Contest official. “The People’s Choice Award is a popular vote, and I believe the Solar Homestead house and team appealed to people on many levels.”

The Solar Homestead is a self-sustaining net zero-energy house inspired by the pioneer spirit of the early settlers to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The isolation of early settlers to the Appalachian region fostered a pioneer spirit in those who established self-sustaining living/working compounds on the frontier. The Solar Homestead fuses these values into a highly energy-efficient home, which remains true to these underlying principles by integrating renewable resources and innovative technology into a prototype that is adaptable, self-sufficient, rugged, affordable, and attractive.

As announced earlier this week, Appalachian State also won second place in the Communications Contest and third place in the Architecture Contest. Appalachian State University is located in Boone, North Carolina.

Carol Anna is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Clarity, Passion Score Communications Contest Win for Middlebury College

Friday, September 30, 2011

By Carol Anna

With exemplary communications materials, public tours, and website, Middlebury College received first place in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Communications Contest today.

“Middlebury College, this year’s winner of the Communications Contest, is a very authentic team that conveyed the best of New England architecture. This team’s holistic approach to communications was refreshing; they achieved in all aspects of communications—not just in one area,” said Ryan Park, director of business development for REC Solar Inc., who presented the award on behalf of the Communications Contest jurors. “This team made renewable energy technologies familiar to the public, which we believe will help people more easily embrace these technologies. And isn’t that what it’s all about?”

Appalachian State University received second place for its contagious passion and enthusiasm. The jurors felt the team offered the best menu of creatively explained ideas that visitors could take home and implement today.

Winning third place, the University of Maryland presented consistent messaging, strong educational exhibit components, and a compelling story.

The Communications contest jury evaluated:

  • Web content quality, appropriateness, and originality
  • Video walkthrough information, the accuracy of the representation of the as-built house on the competition site, accessible captioning, clarity of the audio narrative, and creativity
  • The quality of onsite graphics, photos, displays, and signage
  • The delivery of messages to target audiences and people of all abilities
  • The use of innovative methods to engage audiences, including Web site visitors and people waiting to tour a house.

“Some people might wonder why communications is included in a competition to design and build solar houses. It’s important because communication is our tool for educating the greater population about everything we’re working toward with the Solar Decathlon,” said Richard King, Solar Decathlon director. “In fact, communication is the most powerful thing you can do to spread our message across the globe. We’re not going to succeed if people don’t know what we’re doing. We’re here to show our houses and tell our story. Otherwise, there’s no reason to be here.”

For full scoring details, visit the Communications Contest scores page.

Carol Anna is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

University of Maryland Wins Prestigious Architecture Contest

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By Carol Anna

Before a packed auditorium today at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, the University of Maryland took first place in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Architecture Contest.

“WaterShed achieves an elegant mix of inspiration, function, and simplicity. It takes our current greatest challenges in the built environment—energy and water—and transforms them into opportunities for spatial beauty and poetry while maintaining livability in every square inch,” said Architecture Contest Juror Michelle Kaufmann.

New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington) claimed second place for First Light, its modern interpretation of the traditional New Zealand holiday home, the Kiwi bach.

Appalachian State University received third place for its Solar Homestead, which features outdoor living spaces.

“This year’s teams have managed to raise the bar even higher and have made the job of judging the Architecture Contest extremely difficult for the jury, which tried to find the subtle distinction that separates first from second, and second from third,” Kaufmann said. “The top three projects span the globe; each celebrating its unique regional influences and climatic differences.”

For the Architecture Contest, the jury evaluated the houses on:

  • Architectural elements that include the scale and proportion of room and facade features, indoor/outdoor connections, composition and linking of various house elements
  • Holistic design, meaning an architectural design that will be comfortable for occupants and compatible with the surrounding environment
  • Lighting, assessing the integration and energy efficiency of electrical and natural light
  • Inspiration as reflected in a design that inspires and delights Solar Decathlon visitors
  • Documentation that includes drawings, a project manual, and an audiovisual architecture presentation that accurately reflect the constructed project on the competition site.

For full scoring details, visit the Architecture Contest scores page.

Carol Anna is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Solar Decathlon Team Using Appalachian Mountain History To Model Home of the Future

Monday, April 4, 2011

By April Saylor

Editor’s Note: This entry has been cross-posted from DOE’s Energy Blog.

In honor of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon—which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive—we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

For our second profile, we spoke with Appalachian State University’s faculty advisors Jamie Russell and Chad Everhart about The Solar Homestead, their team’s entry into the competition. Both Chad and Jamie are professors from the university’s building science program in the Department of Technology. Chad provided guidance for the architecture and design portions of the project, while Jamie helped with the engineering side of things.

Chad told us that the original idea for The Solar Homestead was created in the fall of 2009 by a group of eight graduate students that put together a design proposal for entry into the decathlon. The team, he says, was inspired by the pioneer spirit of the early settlers in the mountain region of North Carolina near the school’s current location. 

“We had the students actually go out into the region and research the old homesteads. Those old farms all had sustainable characteristics in common that created a passive solar strategy like what we use today: they all faced south, and all had deciduous trees planted next to the house to provide shade in the summer and sun in the winter.”

“We took the self-sufficiency principles of those early frontiersmen and homesteaders and, based on the precedents we found in old homesteads still standing in the region, tried to created a modern way of life that incorporated new building standards.”

Photo of a scale model of The Solar Homestead.

Appalachian State University’s Solar Homestead conceptual model (Credit: All Commercial Photography/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

From that original proposal, the team has designed a high-performance house that uses independent, technologically advanced “outbuilding modules” that function as standalone solar collection sites. The design of these outbuilding modules was inspired by traditional lean-to sheds found on the original Appalachian homesteads, and they supply power and heat to the house.

Jamie told us that the outbuildings are meant to function as a modern equivalent of various traditional outbuildings and collect sunlight and deliver a flow of renewable energy. The outbuildings are designed to have the flexibility to act as porch, outdoor kitchen, guest room, carport, or storage shed. The Solar Homestead has incorporated the outbuildings into a home office and a “Great Porch” that the team says is reminiscent of the front porch lifestyle of the early Appalachian settlers.

In addition to the faculty advisors, The Solar Homestead team is composed of 50 full time students who work on the project in various classes in colleges throughout the university and more than 100 volunteers. Since receiving their $100,000 from the Department of Energy, the team has raised an additional $600,000 from outside donors and the university so that students can afford to dedicate the time necessary for a project of this magnitude.

“We noticed the students were dropping out of the program because they didn’t have time to work at their outside jobs, and so we’ve been raising the extra money so that we can use that original $100,000 to pay the kids for the work they do outside of class hours,” Jamie told us.

“We’ve been lucky to have this much support,” Jamie said.

Both of the assistant professors said working on The Solar Homestead has really inspired them. “We’ve been able to see the dedication and excitement of the students and watch that grow in each student,” Jamie told us. “It’s renewed my excitement for being a teacher. These students have not only met expectations but really exceeded them and in turn have re-energized us.”

For more information about The Solar Homestead, visit its Web site or blog.

April Saylor is an online content producer and contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Public Affairs.



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