Two universities in the Sacramento area are competing with 15 other college and university teams – and with each other – in the Solar Decathlon 2015 contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The two institutions – California State University, Sacramento (a.k.a., Sacramento State, or CSUS) and UC Davis (UCD) – were among those that had been selected from a field of 140 entries to compete in the two-year event. It will conclude in Irvine, CA, in October.
The Solar Decathlon 2015 rules require each competing team to construct a net-zero house (i.e., one that uses no more energy than it produces), which must be not only cost effective and energy efficient, but attractive. The two university projects are known as “Reflect Home” (CSUS) and “Aggie Sol” (UCD). There is no monetary prize, but only, according to Lindsey Crosby, architectural manager of the Reflect Home project, “bragging rights” for the institution that constructs the winning solar home.
The Reflect Home team’s project executive, “decathlete” Rosni Pann, said, “We wanted to reflect Sacramento not only in the house’s architecture but its openness.” Amber Archangel, reviewing the plan for the house for the website CleanTechnica, was impressed by this very aspect of it, praising its “spacious outdoor deck that expands the interior spaces and lets the light ‘cascade in,’” and noted that it had “surprisingly more livable space than we usually see in a Solar Decathlon home.”
Aggie Sol is an M-Power house which, so far, has involved the efforts of about 250 UCD students from various fields of study. As stated on the project website, “In designing a wooden house, we will minimize cost by using a widely available material and by tapping into an existing pool of wooden construction expertise.” Notable features of the house include a home plumbing system relying on gravity, not pumps, an all-electric HVAC system, passive heating and cooling, thick straw bale walls to retain heat, and occupancy sensors.
After Solar Decathlon 2015 ends in October, both teams have plans for the houses they are building. The Reflect Home team intends to turn their house into a sustainability learning lab, and the Aggie Sol team hopes that its house will be of use as a residence for agricultural students.
In California, the other teams competing in Solar Decathlon 2015 are: California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and, collectively, University of California at Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College.