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Carnegie Mellon University Solar Decathlon Team Announces Partnership With Powdermill Nature Reserve


August 14, 2006 - PITTSBURGH— Carnegie Mellon University’s Solar Decathlon team has begun preparations for the October 2007 Solar Decathlon competition by partnering with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve.

Working with Powdermill as their client, Carnegie Mellon students will design, build, operate and exhibit an 800-square-foot, solar-powered house at the competition in Washington, D.C. After the competition, the solar house will be permanently installed at the Rector, Pa., Powdermill Nature Reserve, a biological field station that serves as both a laboratory and a reserve for the study of natural processes. The house will serve as living quarters for visiting scientists and an exhibit space showcasing solar energy and sustainable living methods.

“The Carnegie Mellon Solar Decathlon house is a perfect fit with our plans for the expansion of our nature center and headquarters building, and complements our commitment to environmental sustainability in construction technology, educational programming for adults and children, and ongoing exhibit opportunities,” said David A. Smith, director of the Powdermill Nature Reserve. “All of these aspects of the project present excellent teaching and exhibit opportunities.”

Carnegie Mellon’s Solar Decathlon team is also collaborating with a team from Germany’s Technical University Darmstadt (TUD). While each team will design and build their own solar house, they will work together to address issues in solar energy, urban sustainable development and cooperative living.

The collaboration between Carnegie Mellon and TUD offers a strategic benefit to both teams — Carnegie Mellon brings Solar Decathlon experience, while TUD offers a fresh European perspective on the competition.

“Germany leads the world in solar technology and energy efficiency, but hasn’t discovered sustainability yet. We are the reverse, so it’s the perfect exchange,” said Steve Lee, architecture faculty advisor to the Carnegie Mellon team. “We can also learn from the settlement patterns of European cities and towns — higher densities, pedestrian and bicycle access to services, integration of work-live-play and preservation of farmland and forest land.”

Each Solar Decathlon competition is a two-year process in which student teams design, assemble and operate energy-efficient, solar-powered houses while complying with the criteria associated with the 10 categories that comprise the competition. For two weeks in October 2007, a village of solar homes will be on exhibit for the more than 150,000 visitors to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the Carnegie Mellon Solar Decathlon team, contact Steve Lee at 412-268-3528 or


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