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2009 Cornell University Solar Decathlon Robert Harvey

Background In the fall of 2007 ten of us joined to build a solar house for the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon Competition in the fall of 2009. We had all played minor roles in the 2007 Cornell Team and were ready to take our turn running a 150!student team and building a house completely run by solar power. After two long and hard years of work, we showcased the 'Silo House' on the National Mall. These are the pictures from that journey. Pictures are all taken by Viola Diane Kosseda.

2009 Cornell Solar Decathlon House Every two years the U.S. Department of Energy sponsors the Solar Decathlon, a challenge to twenty universities from around the world to build an 800!square!foot solar powered house and transport it to the National Mall in Washington, DC to compete against the other homes." The competition is judged in ten categories that take into account aspects of a modern solar home: architecture, market viability, engineering, lighting design, communications, comfort zone, hot water, home entertainment, appliances, and net metering." After playing minor roles in Cornell's 2007 entry into the Solar Decathlon Competition, ten of us set out to lead the 2009 entry. We worked for two years to design and build the best possible house." During the summer of 2009 a core group of fifteen voluntarily constructed the house from the ground up at Cornell. We worked over the summer to prepare the house for display at the New York State Fair and subsequently the main competition in DC." We structured our team to be completely student!run and the house to be completely student!built."As the second person in the chain of command, my responsibilities included estimating, budget management, construction oversight, logistics, and running a team of 150 students. These are the pictures from our journey.



The Solar Decathlon team was the biggest project team on Cornell's campus with over 150 student members.

We hired a local metal fabricator to construct the steel sub!structure. The students did then the remainder of the work to complete the house.

Some of the house's unique features are a building!integrated solar thermal system, which pre! heats hot water for the house, and a gray water system that we pioneered at Cornell.

We learned from the shortcomings of the 2007 team and stayed organized by using Microsoft Project and a white board to track our daily and weekly progress and plan into the future.


The total cost of the project was over #750,00, which was raised by us through monetary and product donations from corporations and individuals.

Moving the house was no small task. It required a crane, three low boy trucks, and lots of special permits to move the modules.


We took the house to the New York State Fair in Syracuse, NY to help promote solar energy to the general public and serve as a dry run for setting up the house in Washington.

As anticipated, the corten steel started to rust immediately when exposed to moisture. New York Governor David Paterson and Cornell's President Skorton take a tour durning the fair.

The house featured a student!designed and !built kitchen island that could fold out to seat eight people and a floating bed that can be raised during the day and lowered at night.

Starting at 2 in the morning, we worked through the night to assemble the house and by 10 the next morning we had all three modules bolted together and the high steel in place.

The sun rose on the National Mall while construction was in full swing the next morning.

By the end of the first day of construction most of our solar panels were installed on the roof and the courtyard and ramp were completely assembled.


All twenty teams gather on opening day of the 2009 DOE Solar Decathlon.

The landscape was designed to have a post!agrarian look with native grasses and shrubs that required little water.

The DOE estimates over 10,000 people visit the Solar Decathlon every year. The wait to get into our house was over an hour each of the ten days we were open.

The kitchen proved to be a huge hit with the public. Sean, a student in Cornell's Hotel School, cooks dinner for our solar neighbors during the competition.

Throughout the competition we had numerous Congressmen and Senators stop by to visit the house. One of our tour guides greets guests in the courtyard during tours.

This is a rendering of the house done in early June before we started construction compared to an actual picture of the house on the Mall in October.

2009 Cornell Solar Decathlon Robert Harvey Pictures by Viola Kosseda

Cornell Solar Decathlon  
Cornell Solar Decathlon  

Pictures and Descriptions from the 2009 Cornell Solar Decathlon Team