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May 29: Carnegie Mellon Fine Arts Faculty, Students Collaborate in 2007 Solar Decathlon


Eric Sloss

Carnegie Mellon Fine Arts Faculty, Students
Collaborate in 2007 Solar Decathlon Competition    

PITTSBURGH—A team of faculty and students from Carnegie Mellon University has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to compete in the 2007 Solar Decathlon, Oct. 12–20 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Carnegie Mellon competed in the previous two Solar Decathlons.      

Carnegie Mellon Solar Decathlon ModelThe Solar Decathlon challenges 20 collegiate teams from the U.S., Canada, Germany and Spain to design and construct an energy-efficient, livable home that is exclusively solar-powered. The overall winner is determined by performance in 10 categories that examine the efficiency and viability of the homes on the market. The competition unites the disciplines of engineering, architecture and design.     

The house will be built on the site of Construction Junction, a not-for-profit construction-recycling center on the corner of North Lexington and Meade streets in Pittsburgh's East End.    

"This is the quintessential Carnegie Mellon endeavor — a multidisciplinary, environmentally oriented, hands-on project that takes learning from the classroom into the field," said Stephen Lee, an architecture faculty advisor on the team.    

Carnegie Mellon's team consists of students from the schools of architecture, art, design and drama in the College of Fine Arts (CFA), as well as students from the College of Engineering and the Tepper School of Business. The team also includes students and faculty from the University of Pittsburgh and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Architecture students planned the building, while art, design and drama students fused functionality with aesthetics to create the interior and exterior.  

"Students are responsible for the design, details, construction, management and fundraising, so they are getting broad exposure to all aspects of the industry," Lee said.     

The team's home consists of a linear core to which separate pods — including a kitchen, bedroom and living room — are attached. The homeowner can rearrange the pods, remove them or add upgraded pods using what the team calls a "plug-and-play" system. The home will also include a deck space, a collaborative effort between Carnegie Mellon and a team from Germany's Technische Universität Darmstadt.     

After the Solar Decathlon, Carnegie Mellon's house will be moved to the 2,200-acre Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, Pa., which is part of the outdoor educational center and biological field station for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.    

For more on the Carnegie Mellon Solar Decathlon house, visit For more on the international event, visit