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Solar Decathlon 2013

Team Capitol DC designs solar house as haven for wounded veterans

September 30, 2013|By Sam Lubell

When members of Team Capitol DC began their Solar Decathlon project two years ago, they were struck by the troubles facing recently returned veterans, some of whom were homeless. The team's Harvest Home is meant to be part of the solution: It will serve as a transitional residence near San Diego for a wounded veteran, a patient at the Veterans Affairs medical center in La Jolla who prefers not to be identified. After he leaves the house, other veterans will live in it, all part of a program run by local nonprofit Wounded Warrior Homes.

FULL COVERAGE: Solar Decathlon 2013 main page

Team Capitol DC -- made up of students from Catholic, George Washington and American universities --designed their house as a place of calm and healing, specifically for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or brain trauma. A key strategy is connecting them to nature, so the home has generous public spaces, multiple decks and lots of landscaping.

"We want to help soldiers find a new normal more easily," said Mary Sper, a team advisor and an alumna of George Washington's landscape design program.

More of the home's square footage is devoted to outdoor space than indoor, including gardens full of herbs, vegetables, lawn and native plants. The "harvest deck" even has a narrow water channel flowing through it.

IMAGE GALLERY: Team Capitol DC's Solar Decathlon entry

The purple and green accents inside have been proven to promote calming, the team said, as has the large amount of glass connecting residents to the outdoors and the emphasis on natural ventilation. The exterior is made of shiplapped reclaimed wood, and floors were salvaged from a 150-year-old church, which can't hurt in adding a spiritual connection.

Besides all the natural light, the home boasts photovoltaic and flat-plate solar panels, solar thermal heating, a digital energy management system, a passive lighting system, rainwater reuse and an under-floor heating and cooling distribution system.


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