In 2011, students from the Schulich School of Engineering, the Faculty of Environmental Design, and the Haskayne School of Business entered a project into the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The project was the only one from Canada, and placed tenth out of nineteen.
When originally built, the project had the name of Cenovus-Technological Residence Traditional Living, after the sponsor, Cenovus. The acronym (TRTL) is pronounced “turtle”, for the dome shape of the building; Piikani Chief Reg Crowshoe later gave it the name “Spo’pi,” the Blackfoot word for turtle. Cenovus donated the building to the university in 2012.
The building opened adjacent to the engineering complex on May 2, 2013. Spo’pi is a two-bedroom, 935-square metre house intended to provide alternative housing on First Nations. There are more than thirty solar panels on the roof, and overall the building generates more energy than it consumes. The space currently accommodates teaching and learning for solar energy and sustainability research.