University of Calgary

Team Alberta breaks ground on new student-built solar house

UToday HomeJune 17, 2013

Not only will the solar house — Borealis — produce as much electricity as it consumes, but it must also provide shelter suitable for northern climates.Not only will the solar house — Borealis — produce as much electricity as it consumes, but it must also provide shelter suitable for northern climates.On June 14, students from the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University celebrated the start of construction of their solar house, Borealis. The institutions also marked the partnership of the Team Alberta Solar Decathlon project with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by provosts Dru Marshall and Manuel Mertin. Guests included Jim Dinning, chancellor of the University of Calgary, along with sponsors and supporters of Team Alberta.

Borealis is Team Alberta’s third entry in the international Solar Decathlon competition this October in Irvine, Calif. The 84-square-metre home will facilitate sustainable living in remote areas. Borealis will be net-zero, meaning it will produce as much electricity as it consumes.

Team Alberta is comprised of more than 100 students from a variety of disciplines at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.

“The Solar Decathlon is an excellent experiential learning project and an outstanding example of post-secondary collaboration in Alberta,” says Marshall. “The project team has been meeting for over a year and includes collaboration at all levels of the academy – from students right through to the provosts. Exciting student-led and administrator-enabled projects like this one provide valuable opportunities for students and the community in general to examine sustainability and to discover the potential of renewable energy such as solar power.”

“The challenges of powering a house by solar energy, which is not always readily available or easily stored, are enormous,” adds Mertin. “It requires a house to be energy efficient in all aspects of design and construction. Moreover, unlike many other participants, Team Alberta’s entry has to function in a northern climate and perform in California, where the emphasis is on cooling.”

“Solar Decathlon is unlike any other project I’ve been involved with in school,” says Ellysa Evans, Interior Design co-lead and student at Mount Royal University. “It’s inspirational working with so many curious and passionate students and now finally seeing our creation start to take shape.”

Borealis is in the framing stage and construction will be complete by the end of the summer. The team plans to make the home available for public exhibition before disassembling it and moving the structure to California for the competition. For more information, visit


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