A glimpse into Casa del Sol

  • The outside exterior of Casa del Sol. (Yeo Gee Saun)

Casa del Sol, Orange County’s entry into this year’s Solar Decathlon, was created in order to produce a affordable and energy efficent home. The team was comprised of 200 students from the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College.

The project began in the summer of 2013 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.

Paige Svehlak, who aided in the construction of the house in addition to its interior design and lighting, says that the home is designed to totally embrace solar energy.

“Something that is interesting about our home is that it really embraces passive solar, which is going in sequence with the sun,” said Svehlak. “So we constructed our home to make sure that we’re utilizing a lot of engineering systems.”

One of these systems is a steel moment frame, which helps prevent against natural disasters that result in the ground beneath the building shifting. This, Svehlak says, is instrumental, given the state it is being built in.

“Here in California, our disaster relief for earthquakes and what not was ensuring that we have a steel frame for our home to be able to handle a large earthquake,” said Svehlak.

Work on the house continued to incorporate a design influenced from the California Poppy, the official state flower of California.

Mahdi Jorat, a student from Saddleback who aided in the construction of the home, said that, as the California poppy has four petals, the house hoped to meet four specific goals.

“The same way there’s four petals to our house, there were four parts of the poppy we were inspired by,” said Jorat. “Passive solar, constructive innovation, energy efficient design for the so-cal market and to be drought resilient.”

According to Jorat, the latter goal resulted in the house’s unique water system, which uses greywater and rainwater trapped in the house’s specially designed water system.

To chill the water, a Sub-Wet bulb Evaporative Chiller is used. This pumps water through the house’s radiant cooling system located through a grid of piping on the roof.

Joday goes further saying a more unique process is utilized is heat the water.

“We have a solar thermal collector which is essentially a glass tube tinted black with parabolic mirrors around each tube … that actually heats our water,” said Jorat. “In our tests we went up to 160 degrees, which is hotter than a traditional water heater goes.”

Finally, with construction on the house complete, work on the interior took place utilizing a custom collection created by Svehlak and other students.

The house itself, when finally judged, came in 9th place. Svehlak says she doesn’t really care about finishing first place. She finds the public’s reactions to the efforts to build the house more rewarding.

“When the public comes in [to see the house] and they literally come up to and tell you ‘you have created a beautiful home and it’s so innovative,’ that’s the most rewarding thing you can hear,” said Svehlak.

Casa del Sol will soon be avaliable for purchase after it completes its move to another part of the Orange County Great Park.