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The house that students built

Jessica Ireland | Interrobang | News | January 10th, 2011

Three architectural technology students will be traveling to New Zealand this month to help construct a solar-powered house, and later compete in the U.S. Department of Energy's biennial Solar Decathlon this September.

The students will be gone for three months as they work with a team from the department of architecture at Victoria University in Wellington. Fanshawe College got involved with the competition when Wendy Wilson, coordinator of technology programs in the school of language and liberal studies at Fanshawe, reached out to the overseas school through a family member. Wilson had an interest in green building and discussed getting her students to help with the project.

Shaun Haskett, Josh Hoggard and Spencer Marcolini are the three students selected based on the criteria of marks, reliability and having previous construction experience. The previous experience is necessary because the NZ team faces a unique challenge: the house they are developing must be constructed into three different modules to be transported to Washington, DC, where the competition will take place on the National Mall. The three modules will be reassembled over three days on the Mall before the competition begins.

Some aspects they've had to anticipate are the transport containers for the modules, and ensuring that each module can stand on its own.

Another roadblock for the team is that they need to comply with U.S. rules and regulations regarding construction. "We had to do research and translate (New Zealand) rules over to North American rules," explained Haskett.

The students helped secure the correct construction forms and specifications for the team to build in the U.S., said Hoggard. Greg Clemens, a specifications professor at Fanshawe, assisted in the coordination of what NZ needed to consider for construction.

Besides the transportation and specifications of the house, it must face the criteria of the competition. The house must be fully functioning, including the interior and, of course, be solar-powered. As the competition is a decathlon, the house will be tested in 10 ways. One situation is that the house must have a successful movie night, so the television and lights need to work. There will also be a test on its hot water, architectural appeal, marketability and more. The house must also not exceed the cost of $250,000 US.

The students are excited to get to NZ, but will face some challenges of their own. "They've been a developed team for a couple of months It's their project. It's hard to get in there and help where we can, without stepping on toes," said Haskett.

For the actual competition in September, Fanshawe will be sending around 10 students to help with the construction on the National Mall. "It's cheaper for us to send people," said Haskett. "We get some of the glory of it," joked Wilson.

The students wished to thank their various sponsorships, PCL Construction and Ontario International Scholarships for allowing them the opportunity to join the NZ team.
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