Haus on fire
A look into one team's future after their solar-powered house was burned down.
Ricky Lam - May 10, 2017
Bobby Vance, the project manager of FutureHAUS, was on the phone with his mother when he found out that all his hard work drowned in flames.
“I get on the phone and he's [Joseph Wheeler] like, ‘The FutureHAUS is on fire. Bring your coat,’ and hung up the phone,” Vance said. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about? This can't be real?’”
The FutureHAUS is a project focused on developing solar houses through an industrialized process. The team constructed the house shortly before the fire occurred.
According to the Blacksburg Fire Department, the destruction of the Virginia Tech research facility and the FutureHAUS caused a loss of more than $1 million. Despite the project being insured, many of the team members were still devastated.
“I think the biggest thing you can't replace is the amount of effort that we put into it and the amount of learning experiences that we had,” Vance said.
Laurie Booth, an architecture student on the team, expressed her bewilderment after hearing the news.
“I remember walking through the Drillfield and I just started bawling,” Booth said. “That whole day I just kept thinking our house didn't burn down; something else had burned down.”
In some ways, Vance is grateful that the team has the chance to start anew.
“The FutureHAUS is always evolving. When we built it, it was already old. The second that you build it, it was already the past house,” Vance said. “We always looked for ways to improve what we had so we could be like, ‘Alright well this works this way so now we can go prototype it for real.’”
Virginia Tech announced in 2016 that the team will be the only U.S. competitor competing in the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East. Even after the loss, the team remains committed to the feat.
“I think it gave us a lot of energy because we value it so much now after working on it and losing all our work. We want to rebuild it and do even better,” Booth said. “There’s still a future to the FutureHAUS.”