The competition is underway as Carnegie Mellon students and professors are in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12-20, participating for a third time in the environmentally focused Solar Decathlon.
"This is the quintessential Carnegie Mellon endeavor," said Carnegie Mellon's Stephen Lee, professor of architecture. "It's a multi-disciplinary, environmentally-oriented, hands-on project that takes learning from the classroom into the field."
An interdisciplinary team of students designed and built a modular "plug-and-play" house construction that can expand with a homeowner's changing needs.
Lee explained that the plug-and-play concept is demonstrated across the board in the house's design, technology and construction — maximizing adaptability, flexibility and efficiency. New units can be added through a grid of connection points as the number of occupants grows.
Project Manager Ben Saks was drawn to the idea of building something he designed.
"The concept of plug-and-play architecture is a unique strategy and an exciting way to view 21st century living scenarios," said Saks. "In creating a high quality, ecologically conscious lifestyle that can be flexible or expandable, our house serves as a model to meet consumers' needs and aspirations now and in the future."
The Solar Decathlon competition is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. More than 70 students from the Schools of Architecture, Design, Drama, Art, the Tepper School of Business and the Carnegie Institute of Technology make up Carnegie Mellon's interdisciplinary team.
Team houses are open to the public on most days between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. while juries take turns judging the entries on lighting, architecture, market appeal and engineering. See website for details.
After the competition, the 2007 Carnegie Mellon Solar House will reside in the Powdermill Nature Reserve, an outdoor educational center located 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh.