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Solar decathlons, and other sustainability news

Thursday is Earth Day, and College Inc. is positively teeming with sustainability news.

A team from the University of Maryland has earned one of 20 spots in the international Solar Decathlon Competition, a challenge to design, build and operate a solar-powered house.

Old Dominion and Hampton universities in Virginia have another selected team.

Details on U-Md.'s model, called Watershed:

photo_11_model_team_maryland.jpg

The house is formed by two rectangular units capped by a butterfly roof, which is well-suited to capturing and using sunlight and rainwater. This spacious and affordable house features: A rooftop photovoltaic array; an edible green wall and garden; innovative, smart technologies that allow residents to control temperature, ventilation, humidity, and light for year-round comfort; building and finish materials that are beautiful, sustainable, cost-effective, and durable.

And from the Tidewater-area Virginia team:

photo_11_model_team_tidewater_virginia.jpg

Developing buildings with net-zero energy use for tight urban quarters will be crucial to ensuring the efficiency of cities in the future. A market-competitive, affordable urban housing solution, "Unit 6 Unplugged" represents part of a six-unit, multifamily infill building for a central city site. Key features include: A deep, shaded balcony for three-season comfort that incorporates operable windows and thermal mass so it can convert to a sunspace for use in cold weather; a circulation core that contains mechanical systems such as a hot water heater and storage tank and a combined heat and power system that distributes water and power to the house.

Teams spend almost two years creating the houses, then stage their creations in fall 2011 on the National Mall.

It's the fourth time a U-Md. team has made it into the Solar Decathlon finals.

The College of William and Mary's Earth Day celebration will center on the school-wide Do One Thing campaign, which, as the name hints, asks members of the campus community to embrace "personal sustainability." William & Mary Chancellor Sandra Day O'Connor has pledged "to go paperless as much as possible," according to a release, while President Reveley committed to use only non-disposable coffee mugs and to print documents double-sided.

Finally, Dickinson College in Pennsylvania says it is the first college in the country to adopt Viesel, a renewable fuel made from used vegetable oil, as a power source. (The product bears no relation to action star Vin Diesel.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited Dickinson last week under its Green Power Challenge for "using more green power than any other school in its NCAA conference. Dickinson purchased 18 million kilowatt-hours of green power, representing all of the college's annual electricity usage, according to a release.

The EPA estimates that Dickinson's savings save an amount of energy equivalent to that produced by nearly 2,000 average American homes.

Catholic University was also honored for using more "green power" than any other school in its athletic conference. CUA purchased more than 13 million kilowatt hours of green power, representing 35 percent of the school's annual electricity usage. About a third of the university's energy supply comes from wind, solar, hydro and biomass sources, according to a release.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  April 20, 2010; 5:07 AM ET
Categories:  Administration , Facilities , Sustainability  | Tags: Earth Day Washington, Maryland sustainability, Solar Decathlon, University of Maryland sustainability, Virginia sustainability, William and Mary sustainability, campus sustainability  
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