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Solar Decathlon 2015 Team Nexushaus Part 3: Overcoming Hurdles

Posted 28 August 2015 12:00 AM by Molly K. McNamara, Communications, UT-TUM Solar Decathlon Team

Dog days of summer for Nexus Haus team

As the summer months come to an end, NexusHaus construction nears completion. A team of dedicated students and faculty advisors have worked tirelessly to finish the house on time. Meanwhile, other team members in Austin and Munich have collaborated to meet the final deliverable due to the Department of Energy in mid-August. Countless stressful hours have been spent to establish the UT-TUM Solar Decathlon team as a contender for the October competition in Irvine.

The past months of May and early June brought many difficulties in terms of heavy rains followed by intense heat. Although the modules of the project were sufficiently water-proofed, Team NexusHaus experienced delays on-site due to inclement weather. Flooding in the Austin area resulted in excessive mud and team members were forced to stay inside to wait out the rains. Construction scheduling and documentation revisions have been a consistent challenge for the team given the unforeseen obstacles, but the valiant efforts of our Construction Manager and Architecture team lead, Megan Recher, Engineering lead, Charles Upshaw, and our faculty advisors, among other volunteers, we have overcome all the complications thus far.

Wood members for waterproof rainscreen

After the worst of the weather, in June and July we benefited from an elective course led by faculty advisor, Petra Liedl, which brought UT students to the site five to seven days a week. During this time, the facade construction began. Treating the wood with non-toxic waterproofing proved time-consuming, until a “bath” was created in which multiple individual members could be dipped into the solution at once. In order to achieve consistent spacing for the members, after they had been treated and dried, team members devised a jig to properly and efficiently build the rainscreen modules.

Nexus Haus team member assembles wood members

The heat has been a constant barrier for construction. Working in the morning and late afternoon allows for some respite from the sun in the hottest hours of the day. Our mechanical systems were constructed indoors, taking advantage of the climate controlled environment at the J. J. Pickle Research Campus. Charles Upshaw has designed and built an Integrated Thermal Energy and Rainwater Storage (ITHERST) system for NexusHaus, which is a unique design and the basis for his Ph.D. His design in tandem with the photovoltaic array, generously donated by SolarWorld, generate electricity to the grid during peak demand hours of the day. The mechanical systems were also installed in the modules during the month of August. Testing and final modifications are currently underway to ensure proper functionality for the competition.

Nexus Haus team member saws wood for construction

As we wrap up loose ends here in Austin, our list of to-dos includes: finalizing the interiors and installing floors, handrails for the deck and ramp, packing up the modules for shipment to Irvine, and returning to classes for fall semester Team NexusHaus is incredibly busy preparing for the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition in Irvine. The house materials are set to arrive in Irvine, California on September 27th to be assembled prior to the competition start date on October 8, 2015. Though there is still a lot of work to do, Team NexusHaus feels confident that we can overcome any additional challenges that come our way.

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