Message from Madrid
August 23, 2010
Hola! Greetings from Madrid (although when you read this, I will have long since returned from Spain).
As you may know, for the past two years, a large team of students, mostly from the College of Design, Construction and Planning (but also including Engineering, Journalism and Communications and Business Administration) conceived, designed, built and then shipped to Spain an entry in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010. I traveled to Madrid for the opening of the competition (June 18) to cheer on the team, to see the other 16 competitors, and to demonstrate that the entire university community is behind this ambitious learning project. BCN professors Robert Ries (the UF team leader), Jim Sullivan, and Russ Walters joined with architecture professors Mark McGlothlin and Bradley Walters, interior design professor Maruja Torres-Antonini and public relations professor Deanna Pelfrey to guide UF’s student team.
Having heard that our containers had arrived in Spain on time and had been brought to the pre-construction site as planned, I expected to see the completed house when I arrived the day before the competition started. But when I arrived, the entire team was working at a breakneck pace on virtually every aspect of house. To make a long a dramatic story short, the UF team lost three precious days of assembly time. And according to the competition deadline, all inspections had to be completed by 10 p.m. THAT NIGHT. Because the Florida team was not alone, all teams were given an additional 24 hours to complete their inspections – minus the four-hour opening ceremony and a group greeting of some dignitaries, including Spain’s prince. This meant all-nighters on Wednesday and Thursday since the doors would open for visitors and competition would begin promptly on Friday morning at 11:00 a.m.
They made it, and the result was remarkable – an elegant, fully functioning solar-powered home. Having had the chance to visit the entries of all 17 participants – and exercising no bias – ours was the best overall. In fact, we finished first in two categories: communication and social awareness and in the “fan choice” category (with a little help from the Gator Nation). Our eighth place finish overall was impressive for a first-time entry.
But the most impressive component, our real victory, was the teamwork by the students and faculty, drawn from different professions and levels of expertise; they worked together with amazing precision and dedication. In our efforts to better integrate the design and construction fields through our professional education, the Solar Decathlon Europe competition showed how and why this is so important. The house is back in Gainesville and will be on display at the UF Solar Energy Park, so when you visit you can see firsthand just how great it is. It reflects the great teamwork, dedication and spirit of DCP faculty, students, alumni and friends who supported this project and the college.