Team Shunya is the first team ever from India to be shortlisted for Solar Decathlon Europe, a prestigious inter collegiate event held in France. An alliance between Rachana Sansad’s Academy of Architecture and IIT Bombay and supported by ISHRAE Mumbai Chapter, Team Shunya was India’s entry at the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. (Please see Chapter News, March-April 2014.) The project charter is to demonstrate zero energy homes. The competition witnessed 20 international teams competing to design, construct and demonstrate full scale houses with minimal energy consumption and powered by renewable energy. Pluss Polymers, engaged in research, development and manufacture of specialized polymers and phase-change materials (PCMs) helped the team to integrate PCM into its solar thermal system for water heating, contributing to the other solar powered sustainable solutions in the house. The participating teams were judged across 10 categories, each carrying a different weightage; hence the name Decathlon. The hot water requirement of such houses is usually up to a temperature of 45-50°C. However, in conventional solar thermal systems, the water is heated up to 60-70°C. The excess heat can be stored in a PCM, which can be tapped when enough solar energy is not available. Pluss Polymers provided support and technical assistance during trials to help choose the right PCM, which eliminates the need for a back-up electric heater. IIT Bombay and Academy of Architecture joined hands in November 2012 to form interdisciplinary teams of architects and engineers working hand-in-hand to find the perfect solution for homes. The team, named Shunya to underline the goal of a zero-energy house, was selected to represent India in the competition, whose previous participants include MIT, Purdue, Cornell, CMU and TU Darmstadt. The team consisted of over 70 students. The Solar Decathlon was started as a biennial event by the US Department of Energy in 2002 and has since expanded to Europe and China. Collegiate teams from across the world build solar energy powered houses, complete with all amenities from a dish washer to a building automation system. The houses are judged on 10 criteria, namely architecture; engineering and construction; energy efficiency; electrical energy balance; comfort conditions; house functioning; communication and social awareness; urban design, transportation and affordability; innovation and sustainability. The results of the competition can be viewed at http://www.solardecathlon2014.fr/en/
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