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GRoW Homecoming

UB's award-winning solar home under re-construction on UB's South Campus

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The GRoW Home has stayed true to its beginnings as a student-led design-build project. Students developed project drawings for the reconstruction effort and provided labor to prepare the site for foundation work. They will put the finishing touches on the house this fall. Photos by Alexander Becker

Published July 20, 2017

An award-winning university project is returning home to South Campus. UB’s GRoW Home, a student-built solar home that traveled across the country to place atop the 2015 Solar Decathlon, is now being reassembled behind Hayes Hall.

The sustainable living project, designed and built by more than 100 students across the university under the leadership of the School of Architecture and Planning, placed 2 in the U.S. Department of Energy’s national intercollegiate Solar Decathlon among a field of 14 finalists.

The 1,100-square-foot solar dwelling, which produces more energy than it consumes and features an in-house greenhouse where occupants can grow food year-round, will educate the public about low-energy living and provide classroom space in its new life as a university and community resource center.

Kenneth MacKay, clinical associate professor of architecture, is overseeing the reconstruction effort that stays true to the project’s beginnings as a student-led design-build project. Students developed project drawings working under MacKay in a fall 2016 seminar and spring 2017 independent study. Last spring, students provided labor for clearing the site for the foundations through the program’s Professional Practice course.

Among the greatest design challenges in rebuilding the house has been adapting the foundation for a cold-weather climate and to sit level with the site (in its first installation, the house was anchored to the tarmac of a decommissioned air base in Irvine for the competition).

This summer’s effort to complete the foundation and install the house was carried out by university students under the supervision of Stephanie Cramer, adjunct assistant professor of architecture, the school’s shop staff members Lindsay Romano, Wade Georgi and Dan Vrana, and architecture student Randy Fernando.

With the GRoW Home moored for the first time since 2015, next steps include installing electrical, plumbing and network services. Finishing touches to the building will take place this fall.

The GRoW Home continues to benefit from support from the community after donations from more than 450 individuals and organizations propelled its successful bid in the 2015 competition. Leadership support has been provided by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.; Buffalo developer George Gellman; Intigral Inc.; The John R. Oishei Foundation; Larkin Development Group; LPCiminelli; Montante Solar; Mr. Robert Morris; National Grid; NYSERDA; SolarCity; UB President’s Circle; U.S. Department of Energy; Watts Architecture & Engineering.