The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will compete in the 2011 Solar Decathlon after being one of 20 college teams selected from over 400 applicants around the world.
The Solar Decathlon is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and has been produced biennially since 2005.
Competitors are challenged to build a solar-powered house, which is affordable, energy-efficient and attractive.
The Solar Decathlon website states that winners are selected based on their "ability to blend cost-effectiveness, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency."
Team UT Zero consists of students and faculty from different concentrations, including Architecture, Art and Engineering.
According to their website, "UT Zero is a multidisciplinary team with the goal to develop new technologies for zero energy building for the University of Tennessee and the state of Tennessee."
The selection process for competition requires applicants visit the Solar Decathlon prior to entry.
Oak Ridge Laboratories has taken particular interest in the project by donating $15,000 to UT Zero, sending members to the 2009 Decathlon.
"We had to go through each of the houses and see what worked, what didn't work, ask questions [about] what technologies were used and what they [home builders] would suggest for us," said Brent Castro, a Junior in the school of Architecture and member of UT Zero.
This visit inspired the 2011 entry from UT Zero entitled, "Living Light House."
A prototype of the entry currently rests in Humanities Plaza and may remain there for a few years.
"We actually had to fight hard for that spot. Because that spot is one of the only locations on campus that isn't completely covered by trees, so we can get all the right sun angels we need for the PV panels."
The structure is one third of the 800 square foot entry and is currently in use as a graduate students office, this allows him to observe the systems of the building functioning.
"We wanted to go ahead and build something so we could test the systems and actually get used to building and learn what works and what doesn't, what's easy and what is way to complicated and what details are actually so beautiful and so elegant."
This process is important because houses are built at each teams home school and transported to Washington D.C. for reassembly on the mall where they are viewed by the public and judged.
Shipping costs add to the already high expense of materials and construction.
UT Zero has received sponsorship from Oak Ridge Laboratories and other organizations, but additional fundraising is needed.
"It is really easy, I think, to raise funds for an event like this because it is such a huge deal if your school does well."
The location of the prototype house near popular tailgating locations generates a profitable response from UT alumni.
The next step of competition is to start the design process, which will begin during a class this summer.
Actual construction will most likely begin next spring in order to be completed for the competition in fall of 2011.