University of Calgary students sending eco-house to Washington, D.C.

Will the turtle win the race? Students from the University of Calgary are kick-starting their careers in green technology by competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition. Wednesday marked the send off of their Aboriginal-inspired eco-house to be transported down to Washington, D.C. Yes, they are literally moving the entire house almost 4,000 km!

The turtle shell shaped house is called the Cenovus-TRTL: Technological Residence Traditional Living (nicknamed and pronounced ‘turtle’). The house is a safe, durable, solar-powered home that produces as much if not more energy than it consumes.  The shell is made of materials that are extremely durable, prevent heat loss, and are resistant to fire and mold.  It is the collective vision of 50 students in environmental design, engineering, communications and business programs. The team is the only Canadian entry in this year’s competition.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition challenges 20 international teams ‘to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.’  In 2009, the University of Calgary placed 6th for a different eco project. That initiative received a Calgary Award for Environmental Achievement and Alberta’s Emerald Award for Environmental Excellence.

The TRTL will be on display in Washington from September 23 – October 2, 2011.

What is green technology?

Green technology is all about preserving the environment by using technology and science for good.  It’s about finding ways to use our natural resources such as the sun to power entire houses while diminishing our carbon footprints and preserving the environment.

Check out this CareerMash video with Brett Sverkas and Andy Shonberger from Earth Rangers who have made careers out of using sustainable technology to positively impact the environment and our world. Earth Rangers is a leader in sustainability and a non-profit dedicated to teaching kids about conservation and saving animals. Plus, a cute owl makes a cameo!

The Native connection

The TRTL project is in collaboration with the Treaty 7 First Nations of Southern Alberta, a territory agreement between Queen Victoria and two nations comprised of several tribes signed in 1877.  The house is designed to help relieve some of the problems associated with today’s Aboriginal housing by:

  • Embracing spirituality:  The house creates the togetherness of a traditional Tipi through an open concept space with two separate bedrooms.  It is designed to create spirituality and spatial energy within the home. 
  • Using the right materials: The house is comprised of local and natural materials both inside and out with lots of windows to create an abundance of light.
  • Preventing illness: Mold-resistant materials are key in preventing mold-related illnesses found in many Native communities.
  • Legality: The house is built on a temporary foundation that bypasses legal barriers to owning property on Native land.

In December 2010, TRTL was blessed in a traditional Native ceremony by the former Chief of the Piikani Nation, Reg Crowshoe. The house was given the Blackfoot name Spo’pi, which means ‘turtle’ and directly translates to “lives on stilts.” The house was blessed again on June 21 in a ceremony that represents a connection to the greater natural order. These blessings were significant in gaining community support. 

Photos used with permission from the University of Calgary


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