UT's faculty is building for a better tomorrow.
Architecture professors Amy Howard and James Rose presented their UT Solar House Project on Friday in the Thompson-Boling Arena Café.
Originally built for the competitive U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2011, the project was designed around the idea of sustainable living, combining highly-efficient designs and construction with new architecture techniques in aesthetics and technology. UT's entry in the competition placed eighth overall and was applauded in several categories, including engineering, architecture and energy production, for which it took first place. Students and faculty that attended the presentation were given in-depth explanations of the solar house's design, along with blueprints and diagrams outlining the structure, systems and materials used.
One of the mechanisms built into the solar house was a special air-ventilation system, which pulls and channels air into unique pipes that circulate it around the house."The air is directed through the house in such a manner that it helps the house maintain a consistent temperature, especially during hot weather, while keeping in line with energy-efficient practices," Howard said. A custom maintenance system was ordered specifically for the house, which controls all automated aspects of the house's functions.
"The system that we use to control several subsets of the house and track data is one that is similar to the systems used to control those robot arms that we see in many industrial areas, such as car making," Rose said. "That tells you just how unique this house is, and the complexity of keeping all these systems running at particular times."
Students and faculty representing architecture, engineering and other subjects left with new outlooks on not only sustainable living, but also the importance of coordinating projects across different fields and industries.
"I thought the presentation was quite good," said Graham Walford, a research professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. "I think that it's important that the university continues to coordinate projects like this, in particular, with industrial and government contacts, so that we can work as a team. "We are in a difficult situation in the world, and working together like this is the best thing we can do."For Amanda Womac, president of the UT science forum, the solar house holds major curb appeal.
"Today's event was very exciting for me personally," Womac said. "I think that passive solar design and looking how to incorporate that with other technologies that are becoming available to create a more sustainable living situation for the normal individual is fantastic. I would've been more than happy to live in such a house."
Womac hopes that after this event, more students and professors will attend and present their own research findings at the forum.
"Next semester, we have an open schedule, so we'll be looking to see what new research is here at UT, Oak Ridge, and other local research facilities, and approach and talk with professors and researchers," she said. The UT science forum meets every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. in the Thompson-Boling Arena Café.