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Not to worry - the Mall can absorb the Solar Decathlon

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Monday, February 7, 2011; 8:20 PM

Regarding the Feb. 5 editorial "Give the Mall a rest":

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I respectfully disagree with the decision of the Interior and Energy departments to remove the Solar Decathlon from the Mall. The monument renovations are a good thing, but I disagree with the premise that the Mall is "overused." The multitude of sports leagues that play on the Mall - let alone the rallies and festivals there - help to enable a healthy democracy. Spotty grass is a sign of engagement, not shame.

The university students who show their solar-powered homes on the Mall are asked to be creative and thoughtful in their designs; this administration should be just as creative and thoughtful and consider solutions to the "footprint" issue while recognizing that the Mall gives events such as the Solar Decathlon a prominence not available elsewhere.

I'm not an engineer or an architect, but I wonder whether the Interior and Energy departments have considered some of these ideas: Discard the heavy plastic walkways and build elevated walkways. Instead of allowing tons of transportation weight to compress the soil in the center of the Mall, position the homes (and the tractor-trailers transporting them) on either Madison Drive or Jefferson Drive. Ask universities to design and fund low-impact passageways between each home, under the canopy of the Mall's elm trees.

Given that universities from around the globe participate in the decathlon, the collaboration on specifications and connecting of the sidewalks could turn an obstacle into a ceremonial gesture of goodwill - a symbolic bridge of collective problem-solving and community.

Ryan Montgomery, Washington

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In the "Give the Mall a rest" editorial, The Post demonstrated that it did not hear the message expressed in President Obama's State of the Union Address last month.

The Solar Decathlon, a unique, popular and influential event, is helping transform the way we build our homes and live our lives. It showcases the best work of the best students and faculties of our best schools. It attracts throngs of families and professionals from the architectural, engineering and construction industries - among the strongest and most important sectors of our economy. And it shows the world that the United States is a leader in the field of sustainable design and construction.

The president could not have been clearer when he said, "The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation." There is no finer example of this than the Solar Decathlon. That this event should forsake the Mall for the sake of some ruts and trampled grass is an example of woefully misplaced priorities.

Alan Abrams, Washington

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