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National Capital Region Highlights

LUMENHAUS arrives at National Building Museum; Siemens sponsors related Sustainability Lecture

LUMENHAUS, an innovative solar house designed and constructed by a team of Virginia Tech faculty and students for the U.S. Department of Energy 2009 Solar Decathlon, has arrived in the National Capital Region from Blacksburg. Through September 27, it is on exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., located outside the building at the intersection of 5th and F Streets. The team is making final improvements on the house before it moves to the National Mall to participate in the competition, which begins October 9.

Virginia Tech and the National Building Museum have a long history of collaboration. Susan Piedmont-Palladino, professor of Architecture, Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) currently serves as the museum's curator. Through tours of the house and public programming, the museum and Virginia Tech aim to educate the public about the importance of sustainable design within the built environment.

One of the programs, a Sustainability Lecture sponsored by Siemens Building Technologies, was held at the museum this week. Siemens is the lead sponsor for Virginia Tech's solar house. Five speakers participated in the two hour lecture. Robert Schubert, professor and associate dean for Research, College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) discussed "Lessons Learned from a Legacy of Solar Houses: VT's Solar Decathlon Entries." In comparing Virginia Tech's entries in 2002 and 2005 with the 2009 LUMENHAUS, Schubert addressed design and materials issues as well as improvements made over the years in how the house is transported from Blacksburg to the competition in Washington D.C.

Saifur Rahman addresses group
on sustainabilty

Three speakers were from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. Presenting "Smart Grid and Renewable Energy," Saifur Rahman, Joseph R. Loring Professor of Engineering and director, Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in the National Capital Region, addressed the importance of merging two infrastructures, electrical and intelligence, and cautioned that the smart grid is not something that is created all at once. "It will evolve over many years," he said.

Sean McGinnis, director of Virginia Tech Green Engineering, talked about "Life Cycle and Sustainability Issues for Building Materials and Systems." Whatever you are making, he said, you need to consider how you will get the material, extract from it, use it, and dispose of it. "Life cycle thinking is an important tool," McGinnis said, "because it offers quantitative analysis and assessment that helps us make better decisions." McGinnis also took the opportunity to praise the solar decathlon as a way of getting students from various disciplines to work together in a very positive way.

Michael Ellis, associate professor and John R Jones III Faculty Fellow, discussed "Transitional Energy Strategies" that include a need for more consumer acceptance of electric vehicles and switching from heating oil to natural gas.

"Building Sustainability in Relation to Virginia's Climate and Energy Policy" was addressed by guest lecturer Steve Walz, director of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. Walz ended the event on an optimistic note, expressing his belief that the environment and energy planning will remain key issues in Commonwealth of Virginia policy making, no matter who is elected governor in November.

Posted September 17, 2009