Solar Decathlon Team New York has successfully surpassed two milestones. The US DOE Solar Decathlon competition deadline and the Holcim Competition deadline were two of Team New York's completed goals.
The Construction Documents, Cost Estimate, and Project Manual are three submitted deliverables for which the team can potentially receive funds from the US Department of Energy upon review. The completion of these tasks required great coordination between Architecture and Engineering students. Each of these submittals prove significant to understanding the Solar Roofpod's built reality. Iskra Petrova, a team member who has leaded efforts of the Project Manual, explains how the Project Manual is complementary to the construction documents set, and are the architect's instructions to the contractor- it explains those pod aspects which cannot always be captured in drawing, such as the texture or strength of a material.
The Holcim Competition for Sustainable Construction encourages students to submit innovative designs which will eventually be built. Team New York submitted a variety of drawings from the conceptual phase to the technical, showcasing its modular construction details which allow for its swift transportation and assembly upon a rooftop.
The students have worked on not only drawings and graphics to best capture the project, but have also been heavily engaged with construction. Team member Yelisa Grullon explains how she was able to understand the mechanisms of a wall detail drawing, was next able to test out her drawing through mock-ups, or models of the design, and then translate it into the actual working component of the Roofpod. Building such parts in a firehouse near school campus, reserved exclusively for the team, has been an incredible learning experience for Team New York. "I love working in the firehouse, it makes me feel like women can accomplish anything," said team member Yinery Baez. Iskra Petrova, who has been an active team member in both drawings and construction, also fondly recalls the transition of both aspects. "You see the same drawing over and over for 6-8 months and you get used to it being a certain size and having a certain composition. Once you start building this house and this drawing you've been staring at for so long starts to become reality, in your wildest dreams you never imagine it looking the way it does. Completing and lifting the first couple of modules was memorable because we all came together and assembled them ourselves."
Every facet of the home is built by students. Yelisa, one of the students leading the efforts in the pod's landscaping, explains how the decking and landscaping design is customizable for the pod's potential client. "It is [also] the final piece that unites the Roofpod with the existing building it sits upon, in a sensual manner. Our landscape also brings a new wildlife upon the rooftop, such as bees, birds and butterflies." She also explains how the Steel Fabrication course allows students to build the handrails and posts.
The construction of a home has also given the students the ability to recognize sustainability in future design. Yelisa explains, "A sustainable home is a building that minimizes the negative impact onto the environment and finds a solution to coexists with its surroundings." To accomplish sustainable design, green products must be considered whenever possible. Yelisa states that aesthetic value is secondary to embodied energy, recyclability, and ultimately, its impact on the environment. Yinery further explains, "I've learned that many of the products we surround ourselves with can be used in many different forms and functions. With green materials we educate ourselves and learn to be less wasteful." Yinery also artfully compares a home as the individual's partner. "The home works with us. The user needs to use only what is needed, not to be wasteful or careless about the world we live in."
The Solar Decathlon has given students valuable experiences which they will carry with them into their careers, beyond university life. Team leadership, collaboration with peers and professionals, patience, and professionalism are some of the qualities these three students treasure. For now, the students are focused on the competition. Yinery said, "I think we will win because as a team, we fight, laugh, and love this project more than any other team out there. I would not trade any of my team members, we are a family. We know this project. We've built it ourselves. We have put so much dedication into it that I feel we have already won!"
Farah Naz Ahmad was born in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the City College of New York. Her career goal is to become a licensed architect. Her past roles as President of American Institute of Architecture Students and as a team leader for the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon have increased her passion for design and sustainability. Farah promotes such concepts as clean energy to educate the future generation. Farah is a LEED Green Associate.