Often read as a cautionary tale among scholars of Greek myth-ology, the story of Icarus and his ill-fated wax-and-feather wings warns against aspirations that go too far, with calamitous consequences.
An international competition between 20 universities to design, build, transport, and commission an 800-square-foot, solar-powered house on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the 2007 Solar Decathlon gave cause for the Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Architecture and Beazer Homes USA to join forces in the creation of "Icarus"–a project that has enjoyed a far happier ending than its namesake.
As principal sponsor, Beazer provided volunteers and construction guidance, as well as financial support for the students who traveled to the District for the three-week competition.
"Beazer Homes brings decades of home construction expertise to the Solar Decathlon project, which has proven invaluable to the team," says Doug Allen, interim dean of the College of Architecture. "Their volunteers are a tremendous resource for the students and faculty alike."
Using cutting-edge technologies, the house was designed to function completely off the energy grid. Georgia Tech was the only university in the Southeast selected to participate in the competition.
The use of translucent aerogels in the roof maximized the home's insulation while simultaneously taking full advantage of natural day-lighting principles. A predominately black and white color scheme characterizes both the home's interior and exterior for a minimalist aesthetic, while the LED-backlit plastic walls partitioning various rooms contribute a touch of cyber chic design.
"This experience is unique because it involves the newest technologies, materials, and construction processes," says Masters-level architecture student and decathlete Jodi Bell-Quinn. "This project taught us not only how to build, but how to develop a feasible building solution when standard building practices do not apply."
Beazer Homes president and CEO Ian McCarthy points to the sponsorship of the Georgia Tech Solar Decathlon project as a natural extension of the builder's move toward more sustainable building practices. "It provides an ideal forum for the exchange of ideas that will help us better understand what is marketable in the future," he says. "Being able to partner with a world leader in this type of research is invaluable as we look to test new ideas."
While 2007 marks the first time that Beazer has teamed up with Georgia Tech, McCarthy notes the company's eagerness to leverage the newly formed relationship to its fullest potential.
"The project has been a win-win for everyone involved," he says. "Our volunteers brought practical, real-world home construction knowledge to the project, which the Georgia Tech students and faculty found very beneficial. From our standpoint, the opportunity to [collaborate] and interact with team members from a number of different disciplines is very advantageous."
So although Icarus wound up in mortal peril as a result of flying too close to the sun, we could all share a similarly tragic fate lest home builders and architects strive to harness that same radiant energy.
Green Makes Good: Village Homes
Simultaneously addressing the issues of sustainability and affordability, Englewood, Colo.-based Village Homes has taken on the role of builder captain for HomeAid's first Northern Colorado project.
Angel Village, an environmentally sound duplex located in Loveland, will assist Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN)–a national nonprofit organization–in its quest to help homeless families get on a path toward more permanent housing solutions.
Totaling in excess of 2,000 square feet, Angel Village will be constructed under "Built Green Colorado" guidelines, thereby minimizing its environmental footprint. Among the eco-friendly features planned for the project's construction are energy efficient appliances, solar water heaters, and insulated concrete forms (ICFs).
In addition to safe, transitional housing, Angel Village and other IHN shelters provide graduates with a two-year aftercare program to ensure continued self sufficiency, according to AnnMarie Arbo, Loveland/Berthoud IHN's executive director.
"We are proud to break ground on our first project in Northern Colorado, which will provide much-needed housing for homeless families in the Loveland/Berthoud area," says Laura Brayman, executive director of HomeAid Colorado. "Village Homes is a premier 'built green' home builder, and we are excited that they have stepped forward to act as our builder captain. However, we still need trade partners for areas such as plumbing, roofing, drywall, and heating to help make this home a reality for Interfaith Hospitality Network families."
For more information on Loveland, Colo.'s Angel Village, please visit www.hacolo.org, www.AngelHouseIHN.org, and www.villagehomes.com.
A Military Mission: Turner Construction
Located on the Washington, D.C., grounds of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Military
Advanced Training Center (MATC) will provide soldiers recovering from amputations and other major extremity ailments with access to the most innovative and state-of-the-art training apparatuses and technologies available today. The MATC is the result of a collaborative effort from the design-build team of Turner Construction Co. and Ellerbe Becket, an architectural and engineering firm.
"This was not a typical project for us by any means," explains Chris Jahrling, vice president of Turner Construction and general manager of its Mid-Atlantic regional office. "Our staff realized this building would have such a significant impact on our wounded warriors, and seeing it come about meant so much to our company. [We are] proud to be behind this project and look forward to serving our armed forces again in the future."
The facility houses more than a dozen individual training stations and prosthetic-support facilities, including a virtual reality simulator on a mobile platform, a dual climbing wall, a complete fitness facility, a simulated shooting range, and one of the only three ceiling-mounted walking/running track harness contraptions in the world.
"Seeing our nation's heroes entering the building [following the ribbon-cutting ceremony] was an emotional event for us," says Ellerbe Becket director of government services Tom Anglim. "To meet the people for whom we designed this building was an incredibly satisfying moment for my team."