In a previous post I wrote about the Solar Decathlon, created and hosted by the US Department of Energy every two years. In October, 2013, the next competition will take place between 20 teams chosen from entries by post secondary institutions from around the world. Two Canadian teams were invited to participate, Team Ontario and Team Alberta.
Like Team Ontario (see my September 6, 2012 post), Team Alberta is a collaboration between three institutions: University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT Polytechnic). Team Alberta has focused its entry on a home built for Fort McMurray, Alberta. Fort McMurray has a significant housing shortage, with an average home price for a single family home in 2012 reaching $758, 506. Yikes! That’s Vancouver price territory! The goal of Team Alberta is to build a home that will provide a solution to the chicken and the egg problem of northern communities: not enough skilled labour to build homes for people living in these areas. Not enough homes for the skilled labour to live in so that they can build more homes.
I spoke with Alexandre Ste. Marie, project manager for Borealis, the name of Team Alberta’s entry. I was intrigued by their proposal given the parameters of the contest: a home has to have a net zero energy use measured through the course of one year. Given that Ft McMurray is far enough north that it receives pretty little light in the winter, I wondered if the team was going to be incorporating other types of renewable energy. Alex told me that they are required to use solar power — since it is a solar competition, but he also pointed out that although Ft. McMurray gets less sunlight during the winter than areas farther south, it gets a lot more sun in the summer. The extra sunlight received in the summer should off-set the amount of power used in the dark winter months.
Design is another important aspect of the competition and something that they’ve put a lot of thought into while developing their entry. Although there are three modules, they’re placed counter-balancing each other, creating a more visually appealing area than if they’d been placed in one solid row. All of the plumbing and mechanicals will be housed in the central module which allows for easier transportability and assembly — two of the main design points that the team wanted to achieve for their home.
This will also be the University of Calgary’s third time entering the decathlon, and Alex, a fourth year commerce student at University of Calgary, says they’ve learned some valuable lessons from their last two entries. One lesson was that partnering with other schools with different strengths is a key to success, another is that visual design is very important.
At the moment, all of the design features haven’t yet been confirmed, but we will keep up with this project and Team Ontario’s as they progress.
Good luck Team Alberta!