Four Orange County colleges are working together for the Solar Decathlon

A futuristic rendering of Casa del Sol. Team Orange County will display the home at the Orange County Great Park from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18. (Josie Troung/Shimahara Illustrations)

A futuristic rendering of Casa del Sol. Team Orange County will display the home at the Orange County Great Park from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18. (Josie Troung/Shimahara Illustrations)

Students from the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College have come together to build Casa del Sol, a solar powered, net-zero sustainable home inspired by the California poppy. Team Orange County is creating the home for the 2015 Solar Decathlon that is put on by the United States Department of Energy.

The Solar Decathlon is a biennial event challenging student teams to build the best-designed, most affordable, net-zero home. Team OC’s home is also drought resistant and uses passive solar design, meaning it opens and closes to the sun.

The contest will be held in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine Oct. 8-18. There are around 100,000 visitors expected to visit Casa del Sol and other student-made homes. The winner of the contest will be named Oct. 17.

Although the contest is within miles of where Team OC has been building their innovative home, project manager Alex McDonald explains why the project will get very stressful in the next month.

McDonald, who helped write the grant for the project and recruit the team of students, said the students are expecting most work days to be 20 hours long.

“We’re gonna have to break [the home] all apart, ship it to the Great Park, reassemble everything in nine days and turn it back on,” McDonald said. “It’ll be stressful and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. is a long time and that’s our window of opportunity.”

UC Irvine mechanical engineering major Teagan Barnes believes the group needs to deal with the late hours and other problems that could occur in the reassembling.

“We’re probably gonna have some late nights and just accept the fact that there is gonna be stress and things not going as planned,” Barnes said.

An intricate part of the project is the car port. An electric car is being charged by the home by kilowatts. Casa del Sol produces 17 and a half kilowatts per day, four of which go to charging the electric vehicle.

Paige Svehlak, who is studying interior design at Saddleback and is a part of the Interior Architecture Workgroup, says that the car port is the first thing that will go over to the Great Park. She also has a plan on how to reassemble the home in that nine-day window.

“We also have it planned so each day we knock out two to three modules,” Svehlak said. “We have a tight schedule, but we’re gonna get there.”

A couple of students working on Casa del Sol. The home includes an AC/DC inverter, which is said to be the "heart" of the house. (Team Orange County)

A couple of students working on Casa del Sol. The home includes an AC/DC inverter, which is said to be the “heart” of the house. (Team Orange County)

The electric car will have to be driven 25 miles per day for eight consecutive days as part of the decathlon. Other decathlon requirements for the home include its ability to boil hot water, maintain a temperature of 71 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit, host two dinner nights and host a movie night, according to McDonald.

Another important part of the home is its separate studio unit. The studio is designed for a teenager or other person living in the home that wants privacy from the main part of the home. For example, if a student had come back from college or grandparents were visiting the home, they would have a private place to stay, but still be close enough to interact with people inside the home.

The home would not be energy efficient without the unique addition of an AC/DC inverter. McDonald explains that the inverter avoids significant power losses caused by switching between AC and DC, as most homes do.

“The AC/DC bidirectional inverter allows us to direct AC power off of the rooftop and drop it right into our vehicle,” McDonald said.

Because of California’s extreme drought, Casa del Sol uses grey-water catchment tanks, which capture everything from dishwater to storm runoff.

“We use a system where any grey water is gonna be filtered and conditioned back into our tanks to be used for cooling,” said Barnes.

From Oct. 8-18, Team OC will try and impress an expected 100,000 visitors to Casa del Sol.

“We are hoping that we can get a lot of our community people involved and show up and check out not only our house, but also the other innovative technology and homes that the other schools did,” said Svehlak.

Team OC begins its trek to the Great Park on Sept. 28 and will begin reassembly of Casa del Sol for the Oct. 8 deadline that day.

Construction of Casa del Sol has been ongoing. The home will be disassembled and brought to the Orange County Great Park on Sept. 28.

Construction of Casa del Sol has been ongoing. The home will be disassembled and brought to the Orange County Great Park on Sept. 28. (Team Orange County)

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