The fences are up, the steel is on its way, and the bamboo construction beams are taking shape—the 2013 SCU Solar Decathlon team is ready to break ground on the Radiant House. The students will build the solar powered home on campus before hauling the house to Irvine in October for the first Solar Decathlon held in California. The biennial competition attracts teams from some of the top engineering schools in the world, including Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology.
“This is a really exciting time in the competition,” says Beth Avon, who is in charge of interiors for the team. “We’ve spent more than a year getting this project down on paper and now we’ll spend the next several months making it a reality.”
The students are working in more than a dozen sub-teams, ranging from plumbing to architecture to furniture. This is one of the first homes in the country to use bamboo as part of the infrastructure and not just for its aesthetic value, according to Project Manager Jake Gallau, ’13. As a grass, bamboo is more sustainable than conventional materials because it grows faster than trees.
“We want this house to do more than win the competition,” says civil engineering major Meyling Leon ’13. “We want to make a real impact on the world by thinking outside the box. By using bamboo, we’re sending the message that the future of construction will think about sustainability when choosing materials.”
The team has two ethicists dedicated to ensuring the team considers its impact on the environment. The students weigh the environmental records of their donors, evaluate products for use in the home, and visit elementary schools to teach a new generation about alternative energy.
“We’re really helping keep the team accountable to the impact this house will have on the environment,” says team ethicist Allie Sibole. “We’re not only exceeding the expectations needed to win this competition; we’re setting new standards.”
Another point of innovation is the control systems of the house. The team is hoping to adapt control of lighting and room temperature in an app the public can use in their own homes. The average homeowner would need to invest in some of the products the team is using, but it’s one way the team is making their hard work accessible, and is considering the impact of Radiant House beyond the parameters of the competition. They will release more details on the app in the months ahead.
Check out a video of some of the students & Faculty Advisor James Reites, S.J. completing forklift training here.
The SCU community is invited to the Solar Decathlon Groundbreaking on Thursday, April 25, 2013 from noon to 2 p.m. The ceremony will be held at the Radiant House construction site between Market St. and Sobrato Hall. Lunch is provided.