Students begin building sustainable home
THE SANTA CLARA
October 10, 2013
Hopefully, the third time’s the charm
After two consecutive third-place wins , the Santa Clara Solar Decathlon team is attempting to live up to its legacy at this year’s competition in Irvine, Calif.
The Solar Decathlon is a biannual college competition funded by the U.S. Department of Energy where each team is given a seed of $100,000 to build a solar-powered sustainable home that will be judged on the basis of 10 categories including market appeal and architecture.
This year, Santa Clara is competing against 16 other teams hailing from the U.S., and three teams from Austria, Canada and the Czech Republic.
Santa Clara’s solar-powered house, called Radiant House, is just under the maximum size of 1,000 square feet. It contains an array of new improvements including several clay walls, decks in both the front and back of the house, a clothing dryer that circulates heat and a passive solar design that captures heat trapped underneath the solar panels.
For the first time in the history of the competition, homes are being judged on the basis of affordability in addition to the other categories.
Homes receive the highest amount of possible points in the category for costing $250,000 or less to manufacture.
Professor Tonya Nilsson, who advises the Solar Decathlon team, thinks the new category makes the competition much more realistic.
“The whole point of this competition is to see these net-zero energy homes that a general consumer could be living in,” said Nilsson. “I think that was a fantastic lesson for the students because they had to use engineering judgment to weigh if they had to make their costs a little higher and not do great in affordability, so we have better windows and better insulation.”
According to Nilsson, the team also built a doghouse, affectionately known as “The Ruff House,” out of leftover bamboo as an accessory. The doghouse, with a design very similar to that of the solar house, was built for Nilsson’s dog Shaido, the unofficial engineering mascot.
“I hope that the industry experts…understand what our team is all about.”
Graduate student Beth Avon said that the team invited California governor and Santa Clara alumnus Jerry Brown to bring his dog down to use the Ruff House.
“I hope that the industry experts who are serving as judges and scoring the juried contests such as architecture, engineering and market appeal, understand what our team is all about and what they set out to do,” said Heidi Williams, director of communication for the School of Engineering, “which is to produce a home that is elegant, efficient and economical.”
The home will be available for public viewing in Irvine until Sunday Oct. 13.
The team is also competing for a People’s Choice Award to determine the public’s favorite solar house through the Solar Decathlon website. Voting will conclude on Oct. 11 at 11 a.m., and the winner will be announced on Oct. 12.
Contact Sophie Mattson at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.