Written by Colleen Loftus, Communications Student Assistant
WASHINGTON - Since her graduation this past spring, Katie Miller has done anything but slow down. After a three-year career with the women’s lacrosse team and two Landmark Conference championships, Miller recently joined the Lady Cardinals’ staff as an assistant coach. Although she has already received her diploma, Miller is still working on a project from her undergraduate days, which will have her travel to Irvine, California for its completion in October. Over the last 2 years, Miller has been preparing to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. This competition challenges collegiate students from across the nation to build solar-friendly houses. “I became involved my fall semester of senior year, where we developed the initial proposal for the competition,” Miller says. “The 10 contests not only measure how much energy the teams produce, but other categories such as architecture, engineering, and affordability.”
The Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University contributed students to the Decathlon, forming Team Capitol D.C. These innovative minds came from their perspective university’s architecture, engineering, landscape, interior design, and communications programs. Miller, who graduated with a degree in architecture, is hoping to continue work in sustainable residential design. “Having to collaborate with different disciplines from the different universities was a great learning experience and taught us all how to better communicate in real world situations,” she says.
Their finished product is the Harvest House. This earth-friendly house provides all necessities for living in an energy-conserving manner. “The Harvest House harvests energy and sun through the Photovoltaic array and solar thermal system, water through the 100% roof rainwater collection system, vegetation through the native and edible gardens, and materials through all the reclaimed and repurposed items used throughout the home,” Miller explains. “The goal of harvest was to truly reconnect the inhabitant with nature and embody healing qualities through its extensive connections to nature.” Miller, the Health and Safety Officer on the project, developed and wrote the team’s health and safety plan, implementing the plan during the construction of the home both in D.C. and California.
Initial planning of the Harvest House began in the fall of 2011, and construction followed in February of 2013. The house was completed and put on display at the various universities in Washington, D.C. On Catholic University’s campus, the house was on display in the Father O’Connell parking lot. “[We had] access with craning, wide load trailers, and site power. It is close proximity to the architecture building, its wood shop, and the free marketing of Michigan Avenue,” Miller explains, “everyone loved [Harvest] and thought it was very soothing and calming!”
Harvest House was shipped to Irvine, California, on September 12, arriving about one week later. “Harvest home was split into modules which were loaded onto two wide load trailers. The rest of the materials were packed on semi trucks to be shipped to California,” says Miller. There, it will be judged in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon along with 19 other teams from across the United States. “The atmosphere of the competition is what I'm looking forward to the most,” says Miller, “it is incredible just to see the teams that have come so far and what everyone was able to produce!” Miller explains that Harvest’s client gives it a unique touch in the competition, since teams usually donate their finished products to research.
Team Capitol D.C. announced that Harvest House will be donated to Wounded Warrior Homes after the competition. This organization provides stable living environments for military veterans transitioning back into their normal lives after returning from war. Harvest will be a future home to veteran soldiers with physical impairments, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder patients, and others who require a gradual process back into daily life that qualify under the WWH program. “No one has ever designed a house for such a client in this competition,” says Miller, “from the very beginning our team wanted to donate the home to a veteran, and this organization ended up being a perfect fit!”
After competition and graduation, along with working in sustainable residential design, Katie Miller says she would love to help with Team Capitol D.C.’s future endeavors. “I think this project is an incredible experience that all students in the building field should be exposed to. I would love to help on another project, just probably in a smaller role.”
For more information on CUA women’s lacrosse, visit the official athletics website at www.cuacardinals.com.