UAB Unveils Completely Solar-Powered House for Upcoming Competition

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UAB students, faculty and administrators unveiled SURVIV(AL) house Wednesday. It's part of the 2017 Solar Decathlon international competition.

Esther Ciammachilli,WBHM

UAB students, faculty and administrators unveiled SURVIV(AL) house Wednesday. It's part of the 2017 Solar Decathlon international competition.

A team made up of students, faculty and staff at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, unveiled SURVIV(AL) house Wednesday.

The project is part of the 2017 Solar Decathlon competition taking place in Denver this October. UAB is competing against 12 other teams from around the world to see which team can build the best, completely solar-powered, full-size home. The 1000-square-foot house is modular, and will be taken apart and transported to Denver. Once there, the team will have to reassemble it and, of course, make sure it works. Linn Smith is a consultant on the project and says transporting a house that’s not meant to be moved presents a huge engineering challenge.

Students use screws to fasten sub-floor to the frame of SURVIV(AL) house. Usually nails are used for this purpose.
Students use screws to fasten sub-floor to the frame of SURVIV(AL) house. Usually nails are used for this purpose.
Esther Ciammachilli,WBHM

“The way it was constructed and what the architects designed into it, instead of just traditional nailing the floor joist and things like that down, it’s put together with screws which would be something that you would not normally do in normal house construction,” Smith says.

Once the competition is over, the team must transport the house back to Birmingham where it will serve as an anchor for the planned green space on the south side of the UAB campus. Scott Jones is an engineering student on the team and he says the project so far has taught him a valuable life lesson.

“I’ve learned that things might look great on paper, [but] when you start doing it in real life, you know, kind of have to adapt to the situation,” Jones says.

The team is responsible for raising all the funding for the project, which they say has been the biggest challenge so far. They have enough to cover the cost of finishing construction on the house, but they still need to raise about $175,000 to cover transportation and travel expenses to Denver, where the team will spend about a month preparing for the competition.