Sunday, September 2, 2012

Israeli "Green Dream Team" To Compete In Environmental Olympics

Solar Decathlon
An Israeli team has for the first time qualified for what is considered one of the world’s most prestigious environmental technology competitions: the US-sponsored Solar Decathlon, a biennial contest sponsored by the US Department of Energy. Teams from around the world will gather to present designs and models for the “house of the future” — a house that produces more energy than it consumes.

First held in 2002, the Decathlon has taken place in the US every other year. The next Decathlon, however, will be held in China, after an agreement on the matter between the US and China last year. Twenty teams from around the world will be participating in the Decathlon finals next August.

An Israeli team almost made it to a Solar Decathlon — not the American one, but the European one — which is held in the alternating year that the US contest is not held. In 2009, an Israeli team from Ariel University was named as a finalist in the European event — but was disqualified by host country Spain for political reasons.

The purpose of the contest, which is open to teams from universities and colleges around the world, is to encourage teams to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Contestants actually build a model of their design, which is put on display at the location where the contest is held. Awards are granted for designs that make the best use of solar energy in each of 10 categories including architecture, market appeal, engineering, affordability, appliances, home entertainment, and energy balance.

It’s that last category that the Israeli team, composed of students and faculty from nearly a dozen Israeli academic institutions, is aiming to sweep. The contest will take place in August 2013 — a full year from now — but the team will need that time to build a working model of their design.

The Israeli project will consist of an 85-square-meter house (a single-family dwelling), to be built modularly — a method that allows for expansion as a family grows. The design stresses the connection of the indoor and the outdoor spaces, increasing the awareness of the environment and reducing energy and resource dependence. The house will be built around an open patio, providing ventilation and light. It will be equipped with the latest in Israeli-designed environmental technology, using as many resources and features in the house as possible to produce the power needed to keep the lights on and the appliances running. For example, the house will be equipped with an array of photovoltaic (PV) panels, producing electricity from sunshine. But there will be other applications of PV technology, such as high-transparency PV glass units for curtain walls and skylights, developed by Israeli startup Pythagoras Solar.

 “Our perspective on building is future-focused, with the aim of developing a method of planning and design in which buildings can better respond to change, with the potential to be taken apart, modified and recycled,” the team said in a statement. “The Solar Decathlon is a rare opportunity to raise awareness of environmental thinking and bring this into day-to-day practice.”

The team is made up of students and staff from a variety of disciplines, including architecture, engineering, interior design, environmental studies, and other areas.

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