Lawrence Tech solar house opens in Troy

When the sun is supposed to be its brightest, that's when the solar house built by a team of students and staff at Lawrence Technological University will open in Troy.

Leaders from the university and Troy announced this week that the building will be finished and ready for the public early this summer. Its permanent home will be on Troy's Civic Center campus next to the Troy Community Center.

"After all the hard work that our students put into this project, we are pleased that the ALOeTERRA house has found a home in Troy where people can see that a well-designed, sustainable house can be a reasonable choice," says Joseph Veryser, associate dean of the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Tech.

The energy-positive home competed in the Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., last fall. The Troy Chamber of Commerce bought it and gave it to the city so it can be used as a public display about sustainable building. It will also be used as a center for recreation activities.

A team of more than 40 Lawrence Tech students called ALOeTERRA (which means "to nourish the earth") designed and built the house last year. Volunteers from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millrights also lent a hand creating a home that harnesses the sunlight into enough electricity to power the home's utilities (along with some left over for a small electric vehicle).

Team ALOeTERRA purposely used green building techniques and technologies widely available to the public so the house can serve as a showcase on how regular people can conserve energy in housing.

For instance, the primary source of energy for hot water and heating is an array of evacuated tubes. The system can store a day's worth of hot water and pay for itself in energy savings in about two years. All of the home’s electricity is generated by photovoltaic solar panels that cover much of the roof. When sunlight isn’t available, the home’s battery system will meet all the energy needs for things like heating, ventilation and air conditioning. To make the house energy positive, meaning it produces more energy than it consumes, Team ALOeTERRA utilized a number of energy conservation ideas to control the home's energy appetite.

The house was a part of the Solar Decathlon's "solar village" exhibition in Washington, D.C. It competed against a field of 20 universities – including MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell – in last year's decathlon, a prestigious international competition where universities contend to build the most attractive and energy-efficient, solar-powered home.

Lawrence Tech was the smallest college in the contest and the only one from Michigan. Its house was one of the runners-up in the BP People’s Choice Award competition, thanks to an architectural design many found attractive and livable.

Source: Eric Pope, spokesman for Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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