Open for Business!!!!

This afternoon it was “throw the doors open and meet your neighbors!” as decathletes from fourteen teams had a chance to see what lay behind their competitors’ walls. While five houses aren’t quite ready for visitors, the Miners toured the other eight completed houses to find wonderfully open and airy living spaces, but more on that later…
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Chancellor Cheryl Schrader made it down to southern California to see the results of her investment in sustainability and experiential learning, and to see how the Miners hold up against the best uh, minds from other states.

Tomorrow? Lots of things happening but it doesn’t start with the Solar Decathlon opening ceremony. At dawn most of the Miners’ setup crew, consisting of some students, the Student Design Center staff, and the unsung heroes from Design and Construction Management (DCM) will pack up and head for the airport. Students need to catch up on classes, the DCM guys will get some well-deserved time at home, and the center staff will tend to the needs of the other S&T student design teams. PR-focused students have flown in to take over the public tours, operate the Nest Home, answer judges’ questions about the technology, and promote the Nest Home in the five all-important (and extremely hard to handicap) subjective contests. The five objective events appeal to the engineer in all of us, because it’s all verifiable data.

Twelve days from now the entire process is reversed. Decathlon over, these structures must disappear from the asphalt in five days or less. The Miners have already moved the house twice (to campus and California), so we hope to have the house on the road and all the design center trucks, trailers and personnel back in Rolla in six days. Just in time to miss homecoming…

We alluded earlier to bright and airy solar homes. Each structure is limited to 1,000sft of conditioned space, and how a team maximizes that space is the challenge. A number of the homes rely on huge patio doors that open to the outside, minimalist/uncluttered decorations, and white paint. Lots of white paint. Paint that spreads light and makes the facility seem even bigger because the eye doesn’t see much detail in a white wall; everything seems seamless. These are the showpieces that will be featured in architectural magazines.
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Less so with the Nest Home. Visitors walk into the Miner home and break into wide smiles. They love its colors and textures. Its whimsy and warmth, its lack of confining walls. The eclectic mix of the new and the repurposed; the blend of soft fabrics, cedar trim and corrugated steel walls. A touch of steam punk, even. The kitchen, the heart of the home, looks like a place where meal-making can be fun; not so sparse that an overlooked morsel could be cause for embarrassment. Yes, a real home. Repurposed and efficient of course, but human. Fun, even. Just like the lessons our students take from the two-year marathon and on into the future.

Proud to be a Miner!

p.s. This will be the last first-hand account of the decathlon, as the ancient scribe is joining the Rolla-or-Bust crew. We’ll do our best to flesh-out texts, tweets, and emails that keep us informed, and make it seem like we are still in Irvine. Which we will be when the party’s over.