Team California’s Refract House shines at the 2009 International Solar Decathlon.
A team of students from Santa Clara and California College of the Arts set out to show that green living is not a compromise. They wanted to prove that a solar-powered house can be a thing of beauty and a marvel of engineering and a place you would want to call home. They named themselves Team California and called what they wrought the Refract House. Over the course of nine days, tens of thousands of folks came to the solar village on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to see their house and 19 others. The consensus of visitors to the Refract House end of the Solar Village: Fabulous—when can we move in?
Finally, on the drizzly morning of October 16, when the contest points were tallied in this year’s International Solar Decathlon, when 20 teams of students and scores of fans and well-wishers crowded into a tent and it was time for the envelope, please, there they were: Team California—with a house lauded as “beautiful in every way”—No. 3 on the planet. The crowd went wild.
The biennial competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, is open to universities around the world. Ten contests comprise the competition, including engineering, architecture, hot water, appliances, and net metering— which tracks whether the houses produce enough power to be selfsufficient or, better, give power back to the grid. More than 250 students worked to construct the Refract House on the SCU campus before it was taken apart and hauled to Washington for the final leg of the competition.
In the 2007 decathlon, a team from Santa Clara earned the No. 3 spot despite scoring 18th out of 20 in architecture. This year the team earned first place in architecture, dazzling folks with a C-shaped house with cantilevered wings that seemed to float above the ground. The team also earned the top spot in communications. Engineering is one of the key contests, and there the innovations earned the team second place. The team also earned second in appliances and home entertainment and third in market viability and hot water.
Overall first place went to a team from Technische Universtät Darmstadt in Germany, with second place going to University of Illinois.
While in Washington, Team California members met with senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as with representatives Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren J.D. ’75, and Sam Farr, who attended law school at Santa Clara. Team project manager Allison Kopf ’11 shared with the members of Congress one important lesson the team had learned (in addition to how to get engineers and architects to talk to one another): “We now, as a team, look at every problem as a challenge, and we look at how to solve it.” This bodes well for the future.
Molly Gore ’10 and SBS
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