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Parking Lot 108 at the NE corner of University Blvd and Buchtel Blvd has had a quiet history. Until now. The jobsite camera shows a house being built. It also shows the hard work that DU Real Estate and Construction Management and UC Berkeley Engineering and Architecture students are putting into it. Designed to be net-zero and transportable, RISE, and houses built by 12 other student teams from around the world, will converge at Peña Station Next this October where they will be judged and a winner awarded in the eigth Solar Decathlon (SD).

There are endless pieces to make this solar puzzle come together. Time and budget constraints, managing staff, and numerous other real-world issues have to be dealt with. Unique challenges such as organizing transportation for the house from Lot 108, to Peña Station Next, to its final resting place in California, make SD a demanding undertaking. We’ve tried things, and we’ve been wrong. But we learn, and we find a way. Each day the house comes closer to completion.

As Dr. Franklin Orr, former Undersecretary for the Department of Energy, discussed in the announcement that Denver had been selected as the location of the 2017 SD, such a project “illustrates the kind of complexity that is always present in real innovation but [gives students] a huge opportunity to be creative about ways to solve those problems.”

In fact, Panasonic CEO Jim Doyle noted how Peña Station Next itself is a model, even an experiment, for similar cities around the world when he visited DU in September 2016 for the Smart Cities Conference. This aligns well with the SD houses that are proving the impossible, possible. It’s bringing technology like Panasonic’s Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town a little closer to home.

The impact of what’s being built on the fissured asphalt of Lot 108 reaches far beyond the walls of RISE. It will help shape our cities, communities, and future.