Decathlon still memorable for WVU team despite loss

Nov 13, 2013

The Solar Decathlon came up short in California, but brought back lots of great memories.
Credit West Virginia University

Branden Bellanca is the student project lead for the Solar Decathlon team. For three weeks in Irvine, Ca., Bellanca and the team competed against nearly 20 other programs from around the world, testing the endurance and efficiency of homes using solar power and other green technologies. WVU’s entry is the first log cabin, rustic style home the competition has seen and Bellanca said that meant encountering some bumps along the way.

"They give you eight and a half days to rebuild, at noon on the last day, if you continue to build after that, they penalize. We pushed past that deadline. We took the next day, which was a day of rest, to finish up things. If you don’t have your house completely expected, per the building code, and you don’t pass your inspections by 7:00 a.m. by the first day of competition, you can’t compete that day," he said.

Due to an issue with the plumbing, the house wasn’t completed on time and lost points. The team came in last. But Bellanca says their cabin-style home was a fan favorite. More than 60,000 people visited the home while it was erect in California and while scoring was close, Bellanca says despite the point losses, had the team had a bit more luck, things might have been very different.

"We still only came within two points of 18th place, and if we had earned 10 more points, we could have been 16th or 17th. The gap was close," Bellanca said.

The competition took place during the federal government shut down, but had been funded in advance. Bellanca says irony still played a role, since the competition would normally have taken place in Washington, at the National Mall.

"Luckily they had moved it, otherwise the Decathlon would have never happened. All of us, the students who wanted to compete, wouldn’t have been able to compete," said Bellanca.

When asked to describe the experience---the total comprehensive experience—Bellanca says it was the best time of his life, and the worst time of his life.

"People were just drained, it was very tough, and probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. But there was this sense of motivation. I think a lot of us came out of this a lot stronger than what we came out of this before," said Bellanca.

Bellanca says the house will now be used for research at the university. He adds the team is already starting to discuss their entry for 2015.