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Green Living From the Ground Up
October 16, 2013
“It’s not easy being green,” but that didn’t stop Team Capitol DC from embarking on a two-year project to build a sustainable home.
The group — which encompasses George Washington University, Catholic University and American University students and faculty — took the sustainable-living concept to new heights with its Harvest Home, becoming the first D.C.-area university team to participate in the Department of Energy’s prestigious Solar Decathlon. Still, the team wanted to do more, so it partnered with Wounded Warrior Homes, a California-based nonprofit organization that helps military veterans returning from combat to recuperate, to donate the home to a wounded military veteran.
At the final competition in Irvine, Calif., Team Capitol DC placed 7th out of 20 university teams from around the world. “We’re proud of the collaboration not only within GW, but also with our neighboring institutions,” said GW President Steven Knapp, who traveled to California to tour the structure. “Harvest Home demonstrates how our students harness their passion for changing the world through concrete, innovative projects, all while continuing to promote such university values as service and leadership.”
The idea of creating a “net-zero” structure, or one that harvests as much energy as it produces, isn’t new, and it’s a natural endeavor for a university that considers sustainability a cornerstone of its academics and research. With the knowledge that the house would be donated to a wounded U.S. military veteran, Team Capitol DC incorporated innovative design elements that will help create a healing environment for the occupant. This type of outreach is closely aligned with GW’s own priorities of fostering education opportunities for our Armed Services members.
In May, the university announced Operation GW VALOR, an interdisciplinary initiative that will provide increased flexibility and career support for veteran and military students and their dependents by emphasizing new and expanded academic opportunities, including online degree programs. The university is also a proud participant of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which funds veterans’ GW education.
Because the Harvest Home is meant to be used, students from GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, Interior Design Program and Landscape Design Program balanced cutting-edge green technology and functional design to ensure the structure’s maximized efficiency and practicality.
Team Capitol DC’s Harvest Home will make the world greener and a veteran’s life better, showcasing the very heart of GW spirit.
GW at the Solar Decathlon
The team wanted to do more, so it partnered with Wounded Warrior Homes, a California-based nonprofit organization that helps military veterans returning from combat to recuperate, to donate the home to a wounded military veteran.
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This year marks the first that a university from the District of Columbia has been awarded a spot in the Solar Decathlon, an international competition held every two years and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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In addition to its recycled steel frame, the Harvest Home uses salvaged wood and other construction materials “harvested” from buildings that have reached the end of their useful lives.
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Harvest Home’s design blurs the edges between indoors and outdoors and provides a calming atmosphere in which a returned military veteran can focus on his or her own healing process.
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Every part of the home has been designed to be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, in case the home’s eventual resident has injuries that affect mobility.
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Team Capitol DC competed against 20 student-teams in Irvine, Calif., for top honors in the sustainable building contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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Everything in the house has been designed to be both ecologically sound and aesthetically pleasing.
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Biosensors in the home will monitor an occupant’s well-being in a nonintrusive way and could alert the occupant that he or she might want to seek medical help.
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Harvest Home features a host of sustainable features built on a net-zero concept, meaning the home will “harvest” any energy it produces and use it.
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The functionality of the home is an expression of the team’s hope that sustainable practices will be integrated into everyday lives.
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Each team was evaluated by juries and through performance measurements in 10 categories including, architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort-zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment and energy balance.
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The idea of creating a “net-zero” structure, or one that harvests as much energy as it produces, isn’t new, and it’s a natural endeavor for a university that considers sustainability a cornerstone of its academics and research
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GW President Steven Knapp and his wife, Diane Robinson Knapp, toured the home and attended the Harvest House Dinner, a formal evaluation in the Home Entertainment portion of the competition attended by members of opposing teams.
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“We’re proud of the collaboration not only within GW, but also with our neighboring institutions,” GW President Steven Knapp said. “Harvest Home demonstrates how our students harness their passion for changing the world through concrete, innovative projects, all while continuing to promote such university values as service and leadership.”
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Team Capitol DC also received a score above 98 on a 100-point scale for appliances, home entertainment and comfort zone, placing second in these categories.
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Team Capitol DC conceptualized, designed and built Harvest Home, a 700-square-foot sustainable structure and garden. The final product was ranked among the top 10 structures in the bi-annual competition.
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