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Sponsor Network Turns Solar Roof Pod Dream Into Reality

"I was excited by the opportunity to give students a hands-on education about how things go together." - Frank J. Sciame
"There is a direct connection between the project and solving our nation’s energy challenges." - Robert Catell
"Being on this team reinforces everything I’ve known about this school. Now the world will know." - Carol J. Weissman Kurth

Team New York Raises $1.4 Million from Energy Firms, Building Industry, Alumni

When The City College of New York was selected from more than 100 entrants as one of 20 finalists in the U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon, it faced a huge challenge: Could this urban, public college assemble the resources needed to design and build the students’ prototype solar house and compete against well-heeled, private and public institutions large and small?

The answer has been a resounding “yes.”  Team New York, with more than 100 students and 10 faculty members from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture and the Grove School of Engineering, has assembled a network of more than 70 sponsors and raised more than $1.4 million to support the project effort.

Support has come from: important players in the energy industry, including Con Edison, NYPA, NYSERDA and EmPower Solar; prominent City College alumni, including Mr. Spitzer, Mr. Grove, Frank Sciame and Robert Catell; the construction industry, and dozens of manufacturers whose products were used in the project, dubbed the Solar Roof Pod.  The City College 21st Century Foundation and City College Fund were major backers, as well.  

(A complete list of sponsors appears at the end of this article.)  

“Some of the most important businesses in this city wanted to support Team New York because this is a truly New York solution to a critical New York issue,” said City College President Lisa S. Coico, who led the fundraising effort.  “The Solar Roof Pod is the only entry designed for high-density urban centers.

”In typical fashion, City College students rose to the challenge and created a house that is innovative, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing.  Their efforts will raise the stature of our architecture and engineering schools nationally and globally.”

Students and their faculty advisors put in tens of thousands of hours to design, order materials for, assemble components, construct and publicize the Solar Roof Pod.  During the construction phase, work went on 16 hours a day, seven days a week, with project director Professor Christian Volkmann and project manager Holly Kallman on the site most of that time.

“I was excited by the opportunity to give students a hands-on education about how things go together,” said Mr. Sciame, whose construction and development firm is a sponsor and who helped reach out to other businesses in the building trades.

The Solar Roof Pod has become a Sciame family project, of sorts.  Frank Sr. has served as a project manager, and his sons, Andrew and Frank Jr., have acted as office and on-site construction supervisors.  His daughter, Alexandra, obtained interior furnishings through a friend who works for Restoration Hardware.  Frank Betting, a master carpenter with Sciame, has taught students so many tricks of the trade that they now call him “Professor Betting.”

“This is a great effort involving students, different building trades, architects and engineers,” added Mr. Sciame.  “They pulled the resources together to pull off a complicated, modular solar home.  It is an intricate, challenging project and I think the students got a lot out of it.”

Engineering alumnus Robert Catell said he became a supporter because the project is a “great way to engage young people in the science of solar energy.  There is a direct connection between the project and solving our nation’s energy challenges.”  A former chairman and chief executive officer of Keyspan Corp., he advocates for alternative energy as chair of the Advanced Energy Research Technology Center at Stony Brook University and a member of the NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) board of directors.

Mr. Catell introduced Team New York to officials with Con Edison, the New York Power Authority and NYSERDA, all of which became sponsors.  Because utilities in New York are mandated to produce 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2030, these entities have a real stake in advancing solar and other technologies, he noted.

“This adds to what City College can provide through its traditional curriculum,” noted Mr. Catell. “It is another avenue to engage students and add to the quality of their education.  Giving students hands-on experience in the field of solar energy allows them to feel they can do something that makes a difference.”

“I thought the concept was amazing,” said architecture alumna Carol J. Weissman Kurth, an early supporter of the project.  She helped garner support from fellow architecture alums by inviting the project director, Professor Christian Volkmann, to make a presentation to the architecture alumni board.  

“These are typical CCNY students who are so focused and driven to make something become a success.  They are out there from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.  Being on this team reinforces everything I’ve known about this school.  Now the world will know.”

On the Internet:

Team New York

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture

Grove School of Engineering

List of Sponsors (As of September 6, 2011)

Central Park Level
($100,000 and above)

Bernard and Anne Spitzer
Andrew Grove
President Lisa S. Coico
Provost Martin Moskovits
U.S. Department of Energy
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Tompkins Square Park Level
($50,000 - $99,999)
CCNY 21st Century Foundation
City College Fund
Con Edison
EmPower Solar
Five Star Electric
New York Power Authority
WDF, Inc.

Washington Square Park Level
($25,000 - $49,999)

Robert B. Catell
Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects

Bryant Park Level
($10,000 - $24,999)

Arnold Glas
Paul and Rosalind Fenster
Joseph and Carolyn Fleischer
The Grove School of Engineering
Carol J.W. Kurth
NanaWall Systems, Inc.
Raico Bautechnik GmbH
Schneider Electric
SolarUS, Inc.
Solera (Advanced Glazings Ltd.)
The Spitzer School of Architecture

Madison Square Park Level
($5,000 - $9,999)

ACEC New York (American Council of Engineering Companies)
American Hardwoods
CCNY Architecture Alumni Board
CCNY Engineering Alumni Board
Douglaston Development / Levine Builders
General Electric
Tesserae ColorMorph (Tesserae Materials)
Warmboard Inc.

High Line Level
($1 - $4,999)

Able Rigging
AmCork (American Cork Products Co.)
American Standard
Candella Waste Services
Competition Architectural Metals
Cord Contracting Co., Inc.
CUNY/NYC Solar America Cities
Dennis Wedlick Architect LLC
Dolan & Traynor
DOW Building Solutions
Duravit AG
Epic Management
Geberit North America
Häfele America Co.
Hunter Roberts Construction Group
Index-d, LLC
Island Acoustics
Lumicor, Inc.
Moos & Kurrat Zeitraffer GbR
McNichols Co.
The New York Roofing Co.
Oceanside Glasstile
Permasteelisa Group
Progress Solar Solutions
Queens County Farm Museum
RCDolner Construction LLC
Shift Space Design
Southern Cypress
Staten Island Chapter of AIA
STV Inc.
TDX Construction
Turner Construction
United Air Conditioning
Velux A/S
Watermark Designs Ltd.
Andrea Woodner
WSP Flack + Kurtz



Ellis Simon
p: 212.650.6460