I'm leaving in two days for Israel [Ed note: This was written a few weeks ago, so Toby has already left for Israel.], where I have been asked to train a crew of kibbutznics to build a solar house, and start a solar home assembly plant. The question that comes to my mind is why me?
This past May I was just starting to work on a masters of construction management in the civil engineering program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Before I had even started classes I got involved with the University of Colorado Solar Decathlon house and found myself in the role of construction manager.
The school project taught me so much, thanks to the great team of students and contractors I was fortunate enough to work with and I learned a lot about what it takes to build an experimental solar home. My team mates and I joke that the competition house was my crash course in construction. Equivalent to 5 years in industry, primarily because no one in their right mind would give me that much responsibility on a project right out of school. After all, I didn’t know anything about construction before working on the competition house. My undergraduate degree was in architectural engineering with an emphasis in lighting design.
The purpose of the Solar Decathlon is to introduce new ideas and technology relating to energy conservation, solar energy, and smart ‘green’ building, to the building industry and educate consumers. The process for new practices to transition from experimental to main-stream is traditionally slow as technology gradually seeps its way into standard construction practice only after it has been tried, tested, and standardized and can take years or decades to become commonplace.
The opportunity to be involved in a project to set up an assembly plant and get it ready to mass-produce affordable solar homes is extraordinary. What is more extraordinary is that this is all happening within six months of the competition utilizing the building techniques so recently showcased on the national mall. I can't imagine this transition happening any faster. The added twist of a travel adventure made it impossible to refuse. I may not completely know what I am getting myself into, but I can’t wait to find out.