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Photo of the Universidad de Puerto Rico's Solar Habitat at Solar Decathlon 2002. Enlarge image

The University of Puerto Rico's Solar Habitat placed second in the Design and Livability contest.
(Credit: Warren Gretz/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Who: Universidad de Puerto Rico
What: Solar Habitat
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Solar Decathlon 2002

Universidad de Puerto Rico: Going the Distance

The Universidad de Puerto Rico was the only overseas competitor to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2002. The team's solar-powered house, Solar Habitat, returned to San Juan after crossing the Atlantic Ocean a second time. It was stored in four pieces at the Jardín Botánico de Río Piedras while waiting for a permanent site to materialize. When plans to locate the house to the Capitol building fell through, Solar Habitat returned to the Universidad de Puerto Rico's Río Piedras campus in early 2004.

Unfortunately, the house was vandalized the first weekend it was on campus. Thieves stole the bathroom and kitchen appliances as well as the copper piping and the air conditioning system. Despite this misfortune, the remaining pieces of the house were successfully reused and recycled. The photovoltaic panels and battery bank went to the school's 2005 house. The school of architecture used the SunFrost refrigerator and all of the bedroom and living room furniture, which were stored in a separate trailer, in the faculty lounge. Salvaged steel scraps were given to the university's maintenance team for reuse.

"The first Solar Decathlon house had such vast and wide local press coverage that it became almost legendary in the local psyche," says Dr. Fernando Abruña, the team's architecture faculty lead. "The press and TV coverage during the event was similar to what is given during Olympic events. In this sense, the first Solar Decathlon house of the University of Puerto Rico became an 'Olympian.'"