Dean's Blog

Sustainability and Spring

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I am pleased to report that spring has officially arrived in central Vermont as marked by the emergence of the hockey puck from what was an eight-foot glacier in the north corner of my house. There were many participants in the contest this year, but only one could take away the grand prize (actually the only prize) of a pint of locally produced 2013 maple syrup and official Norwich University hockey puck. Congratulations are in order for Jason Fortin from the MCE program. Jason successfully picked April 20 as the date the puck would clear the bank and was aided by a string of warm days and rain that finished off the snow pile. The puck is safely stored in my garage for the 2014 event, which will begin in about six months. That doesn’t seem like a very long time before we see snow in the corner again!

The climate in Vermont is a backdrop for an interdisciplinary student project underway on campus known as Delta T-90. Norwich University was selected as one of only 20 international universities participating in the 2013 Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Norwich team has been working hard over the past year or more to showcase a home that was designed and built by students in our undergraduate engineering, architecture and business schools. The Norwich home will be at the event in Orange County, California this October 3-13; please stop by and support the team if you are in the area!

Competition to participate in the project is fierce and the Norwich University team leveraged experience in design-build from an earlier attempt to participate to gain a coveted spot in the 2013 event. The purpose of the Solar Decathlon is to:

  • Educate students and the public about the money-saving opportunities and environmental benefits presented by clean-energy products and design solutions.
  • Demonstrate to the public the comfort and affordability of homes that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems available today.
  • Provide participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter our nation's clean-energy workforce.

Students described the project at a recent campus briefing including the concept of “Delta T-90,” which refers to the ability to maintain a comfort zone of 70 degrees F while the external temperature is -20 degrees F (a difference of 90 degrees). There are several criteria by which entries will be judged and the Norwich project was built with affordability as a top priority, in part to demonstrate a solution that could be adopted in Vermont. The home will provide 1,000 square feet and be energy neutral, thereby eliminating most energy costs through design. You can learn more about the project at as well as follow developments as the October event approaches.

Having lived in Vermont of over 25 years, I can appreciate the need for energy efficiency and improved housing stock; my own home was built in 1853. One-third of Vermont’s housing stock was built before 1950 and as a result requires high energy costs to maintain. Solutions such as those designed and built by Norwich students will pave the way for energy efficiency and affordability, which increasingly will not be mutually exclusive concepts. 

Bring on the snow and ice for the future hockey puck contests!  Perhaps an increasing number of Vermonters will observe the winter from the comfort of a Delta T-90 design, compliments of creative thinking and action by Norwich students and graduates.