Victoria U of Wellington’s First Light House Ranks Third in International Solar Decathlon

Two 2010 GlobaLinks Learning Abroad Interns Helped Design Solar-Efficient Home

Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand’s capital city, made it to the top finishers’ podium with its First Light house, which took third place out of 20 university teams competing Sept. 23-Oct. 2 in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011.

First Light house from New Zealand.

The Meridian First Light House, a solar decathlon entry from Victoria University of Wellington, won third place overall.

As the only entry from the southern hemisphere, the New Zealand team’s solar efficient house won third place for its combined total points in 10 separate competitions measuring everything from hot water output to engineering to home entertainment. Created through Victoria University of Wellington’s Department of Architecture and Design, the team worked for more than two and a half years on the house and for a time included two U.S. students who interned with the department in 2010 through international education program provider GlobaLinks Learning Abroad.

Those individuals are Nicole Chisholm, a environmental and forestry student at SUNY who completed a internship in New Zealand in 2010, and John Fandrey, a University of Missouri – Columbia student who also interned at the university in 2010.

Every two years since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition has taken place in Washington D.C., showcasing a working display of energy innovation in action.

One of the most ambitious and inspiring events in the U.S., it challenges 20 university teams, through a series of 10 contests, to demonstrate inventive clean-energy solutions by building solar-powered houses that feature cost-effective, energy-efficient construction and incorporate energy-saving appliances and renewable energy systems.

The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. This year, the winner was the University of Maryland, with Purdue University coming in second and Victoria University of Wellington coming in third with 919 out of 1,000 points, just a few points behind the winner.

“While we may not have won overall we are incredibly proud to have represented New Zealand on the world stage,” said team member Nick Officer in a press release posted on the New Zealand team’s web site. “We had such and amazing response from the U.S. public here along with supporters back home.”

The New Zealand team’s First Light house is inspired by the traditional New Zealand holiday home—the “Kiwi bach.” First Light’s design reflects a relaxed lifestyle in which socializing and connecting with the outdoors are central to living. At the heart of the design is a glazed central section that functions as a bridge between exterior and interior. A cedar canopy supports the solar array, which produces hot water and generates energy to power the house.


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