Solar Decathlon Construction, Day Four

DSC_2990….and while it’s still only the set-up phase, the Miners seem to be outpacing everyone.
Fourteen university teams are busy (re)building their homes for the Solar Decathlon, but as of this morning only eight have passed the foundation set and anchoring inspections. The Miners were one of the first two (if not the first) to pass that first go/no go hurdle. We’re also told the Nest Home was also the first structure to clear inspections on solar mechanical, water storage and service, and water closet isolation.
Today was about adding more “icing” to the cake. The bedroom extension was added by 9:00 a.m. and insulation and interior paneling were in before lunch. Interior trim and HVAC ductwork additions were obvious, but a “mining” crew disappeared underground/under house to hook up electrical and plumbing lines.
At day’s end the two decks/porches were painted while students cleaned the site for a safe start in the morning.

The Solar Decathlon “village” is built on a huge asphalt parking lot, and considering there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky for two days, it gets pretty DSC_3068 (1)hot on the build sites. That’s why construction manager Nolan Severson set aside the hours just before dusk today to install the photovoltaic panels.

That’s quite an impressive start but far from the whole story. One team’s house arrived two days late due to size/weight issues entering California while a second team’s entry struck a bridge not 50 miles from their home campus. Other team members dropped by to share their stories of middle-of-the-night flat tires or vehicle breakdowns, all part of the challenge of getting their designs an hour south of Los Angeles. Stories they will laugh about. Later.

Other observations? Teams are restricted to 1,000 sft of “conditioned” space but that seems to have little bearing on some designs. We haven’t yet toured the other homes, but a few to take up quite a bit of real estate. One beautiful design merges its conditioned space with semi-enclosed decks to expand the concept of “livable” space. Others homes have massive decks, great for living in Southern California but not so practical in Missouri’s spring storms, hot, humid summers or winter ice and sleet.

Building techniques are, uh, varied. One nearby home-building team uses recycled paper/cellulose batt insulation in their domicile but they cut with a high-speed circular saw, turning cellulose into celluDUST that went everywhere. Repeated attempts to sweep up the debris on a breezy day just made matters worse. Too much technology and power thrown at a task better handled with a simple straightedge and a utility knife.

Last note for the day? Some other builders say they’re pleased that they leave the job site as “early” as 11:00 p.m.

The Miners are often wrapped up at 7:00 p.m., 8:00 at the latest…..