Team Capitol D.C. Heads to Solar Decathlon

GW, American and Catholic University students debut sustainable “Harvest Home.”

August 28, 2013


Harvest Home features a host of sustainable features built on a net-zero concept.

By Brittney Dunkins

Today, George Washington University faculty, staff and students will bid bon voyage to Team Capitol D.C., the first team from Washington to compete in the Solar Decathlon 2013, at a sendoff for “Harvest Home,”  a “green” home and garden that was unveiled Tuesday to the public.

The team composed of students and faculty mentors from the George Washington University, American University and Catholic University will compete against 20 student-teams in Irvine, Calif., for top honors in the sustainable building contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The competition will be held on Oct. 3 through Oct. 13.

“It has been a formative professional experience to work with capable students from undergraduate as well as graduate programs in various disciplines,” said Francisco Javier Alvarez, a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“It’s also refreshing to collaborate with people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get soil under their fingernails as we hammer out and implement sustainable design choices which in another context might not move beyond 'green' buzzwords, ” he said.

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.

For example, a gray water collection system will gather excess rainwater and reuse it to irrigate a garden for edible plants that is an integral part of the design’s indoor/outdoor concept. It will also use a photovoltaic array and solar thermal system to produce energy and water.

“Seeing it all come together has been pretty exciting,” said Nicole Wall, a junior at GW studying systems engineering. “I think that there are a lot of great sustainable aspects to the Harvest Home, and it will be interesting to see different sustainable ideas that other teams have implemented,” she said.

W. M. Kim Roddis, a faculty mentor and civil and environmental engineering professor in SEAS, agrees.

“Team Capitol D.C. will be a strong competitor in Solar Decathlon 2013,” she said noting that Harvest Home is not just for display.

“Fulfilling one of the team’s main goals after the competition, Harvest Home will be donated to Wounded Warriors, a San Diego nonprofit organization, as a transitional home for wounded U.S. military veterans,” Dr. Roddis said.

The functionality of the home is an expression of the team’s hope that sustainable practices will be integrated into everyday lives.

“We cannot expect to continue living the way we are forever and not have any consequences,” Ms. Wall said. “It's time to take responsibility and start living cleaner, more sustainable lives.”

The home will be completely broken down and shipped to California, where it will be reassembled for the competition in October. Students who would like to assist with disassembly can email [email protected].

“We have a solid design prepared by a sharp team so the most exciting part will be actually packing the house and seeing this incredible creation disappear before re-appearing again for competition across the country,” Mr. Alvarez said.