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A journey of miniature proportions

Small things can be quite complex. Like, for example, getting a delicate miniature model of an arhcitecture project safely to the US for display. The First Light team explain.

Three members of the First Light team recently travelled to Orlando, Florida to take part in the International Builders’ Show and to deliver some very important cargo—the recently completed 1:24 model of the First Light house.

This is not the first model of the First Light house. A smaller 1:50 model was made to gain entry into the Solar Decathlon 2011, but due to the increase in size this version is considerably more complex and detailed than the first.

Each team in the competition is required to complete the 1:24 model. Two team members from the School of Architecture at Victoria University worked on the model solidly for over a month to meet the deadline.

After a whole lot of intricate, patience-testing work, the miniature First Light house was looking great. To keep the model intact during its journey to the US, a custom made travel box was constructed.

First Light model in custom made travel box

When the day of departure came, the model was secured and the lid screwed shut for its lengthy trip. As the box disappeared in amongst the rest of the luggage, the guys looked on, hoping dearly that they would see it again and that the airport staff would pay attention to the numerous “Fragile” stickers plastered on the box. 

The model disappears on the baggage conveyor belt

After getting off the 13 hour flight in San Francisco the guys were relieved to see those fragile stickers again when the model came through on the conveyor belt.  They had to pick up their baggage to go through customs and transfer for their final flight to Orlando.

After the box was scrutinised (and the lid unscrewed, as they later learned when they found the customs calling card in the box) by customs, they were on their way to Florida. Upon arrival the guys soon learnt they would need something larger than your standard Taxi to transport the model, they would be travelling in style...if you call shuttles “style”.

This taxi was far too small to accommodate the model

Arriving at the motel the guys opened the box in the corridor for two reasons. One, they couldn’t wait to get inside their room to see how the model had fared, and two, the box didn’t fit through the door to their room. The model had done pretty well during its time in the air but it wasn’t exactly in one piece. The black acrylic solar panels had been thrown from the solar canopy to the timber veneer decking below. 

The model—a little worse for wear

Luckily the guys had come prepared with fast drying model making glue and had a day or two to get the model ready for display at the Orange County Convention Centre in Orlando, where it was to take its place next to models from 19 other teams.

The First Light model on display at the International Builders Show

While the team members came back to NZ after their trip, the First Light model stayed in the US to remain on show. The team are about to begin building the full size First Light house and are looking forward to taking the real thing the next time they go to the US. 

The First Light mode

Check out the blogs below to follow the team's journey so far

Take a 3D tour through First Light’s solar bach

Getting excited about solar design

Practice makes perfect

New Zealand natives in Washington DC

An actively passive house

What’s in a name? 

A team explosion (of size)

Showcasing Kiwi lifestyle to the world

How do you ship a house from Wellington to Washington?