Team Alberta goes net-zero

In taking a guided tour through Borealis, a 3-piece modular net-zero home created by students from Alberta's U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon team, it very quickly becomes apparent that collaboration across disciplines from Mount Royal University and University of Calgary (UofC) students has amounted to a final product worthy of competing on a world stage.

Team Alberta's net-zero home — Borealis

Officially unveiled to the public on August 14 at a ribbon cutting ceremony at UofC, Borealis impressed the local crowd before preparing to set off for the international design competition. The competition will take place from Oct. 3 –13 in Irvine, California.

VIPs cut the ribbon before touring Borealis

The competition

Borealis on Twitter

Follow Team Alberta as they compete in the Solar Decathlon from Oct. 3-13 on Twitter by following @TeamAlbertaSD.

During the Solar Decathlon competition, teams will be judged in 10 different categories: architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort, hot water, appliances, home entertainment and energy balance.

Team Alberta will compete against Team Ontario (comprised of students from Queen's University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College), 16 teams from the United States, one from the Czech Republic and one from Austria.

Designed to provide sustainable living without sacrificing the comforts of home for remote working populations in Canada’s resource industry, Borealis boasts a net-zero energy rating, which means that the house produces as much, or more energy than it consumes. Designed as modular prefabricated housing for the resource industries in Western Canada, it addresses housing shortages with a sustainable alternative.

Borealis is an 84-square-metre home equipped with solar photovoltaic panels, solar thermal tubes, sun tunnel skylights, an intelligent mechanical system and LED lighting. An energy recovery system stores excess energy to be used for dehumidification and heating. There is also a “living wall” that detoxifies the air. The home features private living areas for two people with a shared kitchen and bathroom.

And, because tthe structure consists of prefabricated modules, it is portable and easily transported.

Teamwork across camupuses

The multi-institutional partnership was formalized in June 2013 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Manuel Mertin, provost and vice-president academic from Mount Royal University and Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president academic from the UofC.

The unveiling event drew a formidable crowd, which was comprised of members representing industry, government, academia and students across a variety of programs that all supported the project.

Outstanding support

The project received support from a number of sponsors as well as government. Natural Resources Canada's CanmetENERGY contributed $12,500 and the province of Alberta contributed $200,000.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, Thomas Lukaszuk

“When we bring together the resources and talent of our Campus Alberta partners, we know we can compete with the best,” says Thomas Lukaszuk, deputy premier and minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education.

“Our government is pleased to support Team Alberta," says Lukaszuk. "The Borealis home is a great example of made-in-Alberta solutions gaining international attention thanks to the ongoing collaboration between our province’s post-secondary institutions, research and innovation system and industry.”

Mount Royal President, David Docherty was very impressed with the outcome of the collaboration.

“Borealis captures the imagination of students, engages them theoretically and practically, and helps students develop specific and transferable skills,” Docherty says. “This project epitomizes what post-secondary should be.”

Docherty went on to acknowledge the instrumental role played by Mertin in forming the partnership between the two institutions and conveyed his appreciation for the immense contributions he has made to Mount Royal, as the unveiling event marked Mertin’s final day as provost before retirement.

Mount Royal students from the Bissett School of Business, Faculty of Arts — Interior Design, Faculty of Communication Studies were part of a team of over 100 students that brought Borealis to fruition.

Design meets functionality

Ellysa Evans, a recent Mount Royal graduate from the Faculty of Arts — Interior Design, who started working on Borealis while still a student, helped to create the modern and sleek interor of the home.

Mount Royal Interior Design students balance esthetics and function

“It was amazing to see the project come from concept, through design development, into construction and finally be completed,” says Evans.

Evans says the experience in collaborating with students across all of the various disciplines that brought the project to life was extremely valuable.

“It was great to work with the students from architecture, engineering, communications and business. I got to see their patterns and pick up on how they viewed different aspects. It was especially great working with the engineers to implement design purposefully — finding a balance between esthetics and function.”

Evans says she is grateful for the connections and relationships with her peers and industry that will bode well for her as a new graduate.

Sarah Lomoreux, a student from Mount Royal’s Bachelor of Communications — Information Design program worked with the Borealis team to develop various infographics that showcased the design elements and energy efficient components of the home.

"Working together with the UofC on Borealis has been an incredible experience. To see the home and know that you are part of the team that made it happen is something that stays with you for your entire academic career and beyond," says Lamoreux. "Being able to collaborate with students across so many faculties from both institutions provides real-life skills and experiences that we will draw from for years to come."

The final product was impressive to say the least, and those in attendance left confident in the team’s success at the October event.

“After taking a tour of this amazing home, and seeing the wonderful collaboration between the two universities, I’m confident that Team Alberta will bring home the brass,” says Docherty.

Brendan Greenslade — August 2013