Aggie solar light pipe team wins
EPA sustainability competition


A “solar pipe” system, designed by a Texas A&M College of Architecture team, was among the winning entries in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-sponsored sustainability competition held April 23-26 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition, held as part of the EPA's 2010 National Sustainable Design Expo, challenged college students to create sustainable solutions for worldwide environmental problems through technological innovation.

The Texas A&M team was one of 14 in the 42-team nationwide competition to earn an EPA P3 Award, which was presented at an April 26 ceremony hosted by the National Academy of Science. The award includes $75,000 to further develop of the winning design, implement it in the field, or move it to the marketplace.

During the P3 contest and exposition, the Texas A&M students, led by Liliana Beltrán, associate professor of architecture, used a model to demonstrate to judges and the general public a solar light pipe system for transporting natural light into the interior of buildings. The presentation included a live video feed to the actual project site at the college’s Digital Fabrication Facility, or “Architecture Ranch,” at the Texas A&M Riverside Campus.

"People like the system a lot, and they're asking us when it's going to be available in their buildings," said Beltrán, the project's principal investigator. "Visitors told us it was one of the best projects they saw."

Utilizing an outdoor light collector, the apparatus, dubbed "Horizontal Hybrid Solar Light Pipe: An Integrated System of Daylight and Electric Light," funnels sunlight from the collector through a pipe of highly reflective material into a simulated office space built within a rail car container.

"Sustainable innovations like the ones created by our P3 award winners are the environmental and economic future of our nation. In fields from agriculture to architecture to energy production, sustainability is the true north on the path ahead," said Paul T. Anastas, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development.  "Innovations like these keep our country competitive and healthy.  Congratulations to our winners, and to everyone who participated, for their efforts to create scientific and technological innovations that will lead us into a sustainable future."

Beltrán said $75,000 EPA grant allows the team to enter a new phase of development that will include creating a facility to do further test the pipe.

Plans call for the pipe to be built in an amphibious structure at the Architecture Ranch that can be rotated to simulate locations around the world.

The funds will also be used, she said, to refine the pipe's design with an aim of making it as easy as possible to install.

"We want to go from the demonstration to real applications in the real world," she said.

Co-principal investigator José Fernández-Solis, assistant professor of construction science, led students in the construction of the pipe in the simulated office space.

He said he was proud of the students' efforts and hard work in building the pipe and persuading the competition jury of its possibilities.

"It could be a different way of doing lighting altogether within a building," said Fernández-Solís.

The P3 award competition and National Sustainable Design Expo was held at EPA’s 40th anniversary celebration of Earth Day, April 23-26.  Each year, the expo showcases innovative, cutting-edge technologies designed by student teams along with sustainable policies and technologies developed and implemented by government and state agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

In addition to Texas A&M, winning teams were from Harvard University, Clemson University, Humboldt State University, Appalachian State University, Clarkson University (two teams), Cornell University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Roger Williams University, Virginia Tech, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Drexel University.

For more about the project, visit

The project's home page is available at

For more about the EPA's P3 contest, visit



- Posted: April. 27, 2010 -

— the end —

Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, or 979.458.0442.


Update your contact info and share your news!

The College of Architecture strives to keep up with former students and share their successes in the archone. newsletter. Please take a moment to update your contact information and tell us what you've been up to. Click Here
bottom page borders