SolarWorld solar blog

Solar Decathlon 2015 Team Nexushaus Part 2: Tropical storms and the NexusHaus

Posted 1 July 2015 12:00 AM by Megan Recher, Construction Manager

Spring semester ended with a great success, construction-stopping rain and a lot of good stories.

With the help of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen students who traveled, to the vital final design decisions made the team was able to come together even more this month. The team completed construction documents, finalized details, received and ordered material donatations, and had many great fundraising events. We began construction on April 22, 2015, with the NexusHaus SolarWorld solar panels arriving on site and the aquaponics system being built.

Inspecting the solar decathlon house

We were able to make the deck module prototypes and troubleshoot any issues that arose. But as many of you know, we are still looking at better ways to construct, and new ideas come about every week. As the semester ended in May, we had our final presentation with samples of the dinner menu, materials specs and samples, and all the other components of the design we worked on this spring. Great ideas and outside advice and help were given by the critiques. But it was sad as many of the spring semester students left for professional residency for the summer.

Team Nexushaus constructing solar decathlon's deck module

Unbeknownst to team members, the timing could not have been better for this transition from the spring to summer semester as Austin had its wettest May on record. According to NBC news, Texas had 35 trillion gallons of rain, enough to cover the whole state with nearly 8 inches of rain. Construction was stopped. Flash floods and constant rain had the team worried about the NexusHaus, and how it would face its first storm. Since the roof was not installed yet, we covered the two modules with large tarps to keep them dry. 

When the rains finally did stop, we were able to go out to the site and see that the NexusHaus proved to have withstood its first storm without any water or wind damage. This was as huge a relief as anyone could imagine! 

Team Nexushaus constructing solar decathlon house

The first of June we had Direct Roofing help install the roof on the NexusHaus and work with us on our rain water collection. Shortly after the roof was installed, we moved our efforts to installing cork insulation, and the vapor and ultraviolet barriers. ThermaCork insulation is a carbon-negative product that reduces energy consumption due to its high insulation property and its reduction of thermal bridging. 

Preparing the solar house for a storm

As first-time installers, we were unaware of how the actual process would work. We were unclear how fragile the cork is and broke a few sheets in the beginning. The installation of the cork was fun and required two people, so we split into teams and worked from the west to the east side of the house to stay out of the direct sun. We typically had one person holding the cork in place, while the other fastened it. The team also quickly learned to pre-dust the sheets before picking them up overhead to prevent any cork dust from falling on us. 

With Tropical Storm Bill on the rise, we moved quickly to finish the cork insulation and then onto the vapor barrier. The vapor barrier was finished the day before the storm was expected to hit Austin and we had to close up the window and door openings. The site was a bit swamp-like, our aquaponics system was happy and full of fresh rainwater, and the NexusHaus still stood without any damage. 

Prepping the solar house for tropical storm Bill

This week, the team is constructing a cedar rain screen and continuing working on deck modules, then moving our efforts to installing the SolarWorld’s donated solar panels and working on the mechanical and water systems. Over the course of the summer, the team will continue construction, and, with electrical and plumbing roughs complete, we can begin interior work!

We are excited to be in the final stages of the project and look forward to the challenges and competition.