Education

Cal Poly takes third in solar decathlon event

Cal Poly’s energy-efficient home features bifacial solar panels that absorb light on the bottom and top of their surfaces.
Cal Poly’s energy-efficient home features bifacial solar panels that absorb light on the bottom and top of their surfaces.

A team of Cal Poly students who planned and constructed a “net zero,” energy-efficient home took third in a national competition earlier this month.

The team was honored as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's 2015 Solar Decathlon in Orange County, held Oct. 8-18. Cal Poly students and faculty advisers, along with help from local construction companies, spent two years bringing the project to fruition.

Net zero homes supply all of their own energy needs through onsite renewable energy, such as solar power. The Cal Poly home features “bifacial” solar panels with energy-absorbing cells on the top and bottom of the panels, redirected storm water runoff for reuse, a graywater recycling system and an electric car-charging system.

“All of the teams were required to show that they could charge an electric car and drive it 25 miles per day,” said Sandy Stannard, a faculty adviser and architecture professor at Cal Poly.

Since we started this project two years ago, I feel like I’ve grown so much in leadership skills, public speaking and confidence.

Cal Poly architecture major Alyssa Parr

Students from 12 different majors — including architecture, engineering and business —participated in building the 1,000-square-foot home featuring a 15-foot folding window wall between the living room and an outdoor patio.

The truck was hauled in four sections to the competition site at Orange County Great Park.

“Since we started this project two years ago, I feel like I’ve grown so much in leadership skills, public speaking and confidence,” said Cal Poly architecture major Alyssa Parr, a co-manager of the effort. “In class, you don’t always learn the people skills and real world skills that this taught us. I think it gives me a really solid foundation that will help me tremendously after graduation.”

Stevens Institute of Technology at Hoboken, N.J., took first and The State University of New York at Buffalo was the runner-up.

The first competition was staged in 2002 and it has been held every two years since 2005.

Cal Poly earned first in lighting and second for architecture as part of the individual category competitions.

$650,000 Amount Cal Poly team raised to do the project

Stannard said the event consisted of presentations in front of judges as well as visual inspections by experts in various fields, including architecture, engineering and marketing specialists who assessed the teams’ promotional efforts.

“The jury walked into this house and simply said, ‘Wow,’” said Brian M. Baker, a panelist who analyzed market appeal in a statement. “Drop-dead gorgeous.”

Other highlights of the home included redwood screening, decks and planters and bamboo interior flooring along with kiln-dried wood that prevents mold and mildew.

Stannard said Cal Poly took second in market appeal and livability, which analyzes how well the home would do if produced on a larger scale and sold to potential home buyers, as well as how well it would accommodate livable conditions — including hosting gatherings and setting up entertainment systems.

The home will remain on campus for the time being with the potential for it to be sold, Stannard said.

“This was a lot of work, a really great experience and one that will change the professional lives of the students who participated,” Stannard said.

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