At the College of Engineering at Florida International University (FIU), near Miami, an eco-friendly central park is under construction. The centerpiece of this park is not a waterfall or a fish pond. Instead it is an important piece of energy engineering history that I am very pleased to see FIU preserving so well: the university’s 2005 entry in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon.
In 2008, DOE conducted a study of the whereabouts of 2005 Solar Decathlon entries, and the results are posted here. Thankfully, true to the nature of the competition they were designed for, all of these houses have now been put to good use. This outcome is in stark contrast to the 2002 Decathlon entries, cataloged here, almost all of which were destroyed or are not longer used.
I recently had an opportunity to view the FIU Solar Decathlon house while the surrounding eco-park was still under construction. I’m an energy engineer. So, this visit was a real treat for me. Imagine how an aviator would feel visiting an SR-71 in a newly built flight museum - it was a pretty similar experience. Here is an image of me peaking into the window of the FIU house.
Called “Engawa” (a traditional Japanese wooden porch) FIU’s entry did not finish well in the overall 2005 Solar Decathlon competition. However, the house was a top finisher in the Energy Balance Contest. To date, it is the only entry from any Florida university. Now it is being put to excellent use as an educational and fundraising piece for energy engineering research. As described in an FIU press release, “Brick by brick: College of Engineering and Computing building park to honor alumni and friends,” a pathway of sponsored bricks is being built from the engineering building to the FIU Decathlon house as a bridge between past and present to honor alumni and friends of the school.