Solar Decathlon team given a green send-off

Gathering of sponsors and dignitaries concludes long preparation period as Team MTL heads off for competition in China
Team MTL members are looking up in advance of the Solar Decathlon China competition, which kicks off July 7, in Dezhou, China.

Against the appropriately sustainable background of the Centre for Sustainable Development in downtown Montreal, Team MTL was given a festive send-off party for their upcoming participation in the Solar Decathlon China event. Curtains go up for the international completion on July 9, when teams from around the world will begin building their sustainably designed houses. Team MTL, which brings together students and faculty from McGill and Concordia University, is Canada’s sole entry in the prestigious competition.

The afternoon’s proceedings began with a detailed technical presentation of the house, guided by one of the students steering the campaign, Thierry Syriani, a McGill Architecture student. Syriani pointed out the interactive elements of the house design that are intended to provide residents with visual and audible feedback to sensitize them to their consumption patterns, while also explaining that the house – known as the Deep-Performance Dwelling – uses 80 per cent less electricity than conventional homes.

The student presentation was followed by a series of send-off speeches, led by Geneviève Fournier, Vice President, of Hydro-Québec’s Customers division, who praised the students’ initiative, and said that their involvement in the project “symbolizes our support for universities and colleges across Quebec.”

Speaking on behalf of McGill, Jim Nicell, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, remarked on the impact the experience would have on the students, and that projects like the Solar Decathlon are crucial for their learning as they take place beyond the classroom. He concluded that although he did not worry about the final outcome of the competition, but if Team MTL were to win, “it would be nice.”

Concordia University’s Vice-President of Research and Graduate Studies Christophe Guy echoed Dean Nicell’s sentiments, as he explained that this event was a chance for students “to get their hands dirty with practical work,” and he commended the collaboration between the two institutions.

Jean Séguin, the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Ministry of the Economy, Science and Innovation added some context to the student endeavor, as he explained the size of the Chinese housing market. “One third of the new homes built in the world today are constructed in China,” he said, adding that “housing accounts for 40 per cent of Chinese electrical consumption.” Team MTL’s participation in Solar Decathlon China was an important opportunity to position Quebec’s housing industry on the international stage.

McGill PhD and Team MTL member Ben Wareing spoke on behalf of the other students to thank the sponsors and other external collaborators who have given generously to the team. “It’s been a nearly three-year process and over that time we have gotten to know each other well,” he said, adding that their contributions have been absolutely essential to helping the team reach their goals.

The ceremony was wrapped up by Professor Michael Jemtrud, the Faculty lead on the project representing McGill. He offered thanks to the many sponsors who have contributed financial and in-kind support to the team, without whom nothing would have been possible. Nearly 80 companies, government agencies and institutions have combined to support the project. Professor Jemtrud has been instrumental at pulling these various partners together.

The roughly 60-member team flies out to China on July 4, with a welcoming event to take place at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing on July 6. Construction of the house will begin in Dezhou on July 7, and teams will have roughly three weeks to complete assembly. Public exhibitions will begin on August 2, while the event wraps up and awards will be announced on August 17. In all, 22 teams from 38 schools and 10 countries will take part in the competition. The public is invited to follow the team’s progress on their blog at

(From left to right): Professor Michael Jemtrud, McGill University; Christophe Guy, VP Research and Graduate Studies, Concordia University; Geneviève Fournier, Vice President – Customers at Hydro-Québec Distribution; James Nicell, Dean of McGill’s Faculty of Engineering; and Jean Séguin, Assistant Deputy Minister of MESI (Québec ministry of economy, science and innovation).