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UMass Lowell, MassArt Students Compete in Solar Decathlon

Team Massachusetts Takes on International Competitors This Week in Washington


Contacts:    Christine Gillette, UMass Lowell, 978-934-2209,
                   Laura Van De Pette, Brownstein Group for Saint-Gobain Corp., 267-238-4118,

A group of UMass Lowell students is putting its engineering skills to the test this week in Washington, D.C., competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial Solar Decathlon Competition. 

They are part of Team Massachusetts, which includes UMass Lowell engineering students and Massachusetts College of Art and Design architecture students. The team is one of 19 from across the globe and the only one from Massachusetts chosen to participate in the competition, which challenges participants to design and construct solar-powered houses that are innovative, affordable, energy-efficient and attractive.

Over the past 18 months, Team Massachusetts has designed and built a 1,000-square-foot house — called the 4D Home — for a family of three that is completely powered by the sun. The goal is to eliminate energy costs for its inhabitants and maybe even create a surplus of power. The structure is designed to adapt to the New England environment and over time, to a family’s needs. The house is on display and open for tours at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park until Sunday, Oct. 2.

Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, has provided crucial support to Team Massachusetts. As the lead sponsor, Saint-Gobain has donated more than 30 building products, largely from its key subsidiary, CertainTeed Corp., North America’s leading manufacturer of exterior and interior building products, as well as from its other businesses: Saint-Gobain Abrasives, Saint-Gobain ADFORS, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Meyer Decorative Surfaces and Norandex. In addition, the company has offered building science expertise to assist Team Massachusetts. 

“We are inspired by Team Massachusetts’ efforts and share its vision that we should collectively seek to expect more from our buildings – making them more efficient, durable, sustainable and healthy,” said John Crowe, CEO of Saint-Gobain and Certain-Teed corporations.

“We are grateful to Saint-Gobain and its companies for their support of Team Massachusetts,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “Their contributions to the project helped make our students’ participation in this international competition possible. This kind of hands-on, real-world experiential education is one example of why UMass Lowell students are world-ready and work-ready when they graduate.”

The team’s 4D Home features photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, a solar-thermal water heater to provide hot water, thick walls to allow for more efficient insulation, a heat pump and exchanger for cooling/heating the house in summer and winter, and super energy-efficient windows, appliances and lighting. The students hope the 4D Home will serve as a model for builders and designers creating sustainable dwellings in the Northeast. More on the project can be found at

“The decathlon is an outstanding event and project,” said Walter Thomas of Londonderry, N.H., a UMass Lowell doctoral candidate in solar energy engineering. A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel originally from Laconia, N.H., Thomas is participating in the contest as the team’s project engineer. “It provides the American public an opportunity to see solar technology firsthand and it offers a unique learning opportunity for college students to participate in a large-scale project involving a wide spectrum of technologies.”

About UMass Lowell

UMass Lowell is a comprehensive, national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 15,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering, education, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, liberal arts, management, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.

About Saint-Gobain in North America 

Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, has its North American headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa. As the world leader in sustainable habitat, Saint-Gobain is committed to inventing solutions to help professionals and communities around the world build and renovate comfortable, healthy, economical and energy-efficient buildings. The company has more than 265 locations in North America and approximately 19,000 employees. In the United States and Canada, Saint-Gobain reported sales of approximately $7.3 billion in 2010. 

Saint-Gobain’s family of companies in North America includes CertainTeed Corporation, which offers the most comprehensive portfolio of interior and exterior building products in North America, as well as Saint-Gobain Abrasives, Saint-Gobain ADFORS (previously known as Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics), Vetrotech Saint-Gobain North America, Saint-Gobain Glass, Saint-Gobain Solar, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and more.

Recognized as a 2009 and 2010 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Saint-Gobain earned the 2011 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award, the highest level of recognition for outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency. For information about Saint-Gobain in North America, visit