The University of Texas at Austin
  • McDonald Observatory gets Solar BLOOMhouse

    By Rebecca Johnson
    Rebecca Johnson
    Published: May 1, 2008
    McDonald

    The McDonald Observatory is preparing to add a new eco-friendly facility: the award-winning, solar-powered “BLOOMhouse.”

    Students in School of Architecture designed and built the BLOOMhouse to compete in last year’s Solar Decathlon, a biennial event sponsored by the Department of Energy, BP Solar, the American Institute of Architects and Sprint. They set the house up on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to compete against solar homes from 19 other colleges and universities from across the world.

    The 550-square-foot BLOOMhouse generates all of its own power. In the Solar Decathlon, the house placed first in use of hot water, second in engineering, and did well in several other judged categories. The house also won BP Solar’s design award, for which seven universities submitted design plans that met specific criteria for commercial, economic, technical, and overall efficient design aspects. The prize was state-of-the-art solar panels for the house that were not yet available in the U.S. market.

    Students from the BLOOMhouse team will travel to McDonald Observatory in May to reconstruct the house on the Mount Locke site of the decommissioned Millimeter Wave Telescope. It will be used for staff housing, and faculty from the School of Architecture will continue to study the home’s energy efficiency.

    Future plans include an updated display at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center to feature information on the BLOOMhouse and solar energy.

    Information about the Sun is on display daily at McDonald Observatory, as visitors both tour the “Our Star, the Sun” exhibit and safely view the Sun live from a theater in the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. And in the “Live, from McDonald Observatory” program, kids across Texas learn about the Sun through interactive videoconferences between classrooms and the observatory. The installation of the BLOOMhouse forges one more link in the chain connecting McDonald Observatory to the stars.

    To learn more about the energy-saving innovations of the BLOOMhouse, visit the School of Architecture’s BLOOMhouse Web site.

    For more information on McDonald Observatory’s educational videoconferencing program, visit the “Live from McDonald Observatory” Web site.

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