Radiant House Santa Clara University's 2013 Solar Decathlon Team
We dedicate this book to those who helped make this project successful. First and foremost our faculty advisors, Tim Hight and James Reites, S.J.; all the faculty and staff including Mark Aschheim, Tonya Nilsson, Bill Gould, Steve Brodie, Heidi Williams, Sean Collins, the Office of Marketing and Communications, Dean Godfrey Mungal and the School of Engineering. We are truly appreciative of everyone who contributed, including those not mentioned here.
Radiant House was Santa Clara University's entry in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Competition. Radiant House is a 964 square foot net-zero energy house that was designed around the three e's of our design philosophy: economy, elegance, efficiency. The layout follows the natural rhythm of the sun, thereby creating a wholesome environment for its occupants. Overall the design is a timeless California style that should inspire and delight those who experience it. After about a year of design, we broke ground on our house in April of 2013. Five short months later, we finished our house and loaded it onto trucks to move it to the competition in Irvine, California. At the end of September, we traveled south to Irvine to reassemble Radiant House alongside 18 other houses from around the world, forming a solar village for the public to tour amidst all the judging. Radiant House did extremely well in the measured contests of the Decathlon, which rated the performance of the house. The juried contests did not go as well as we had hoped. When pushing the bounds of technology and sustainable design, it is new and therefore harder for people to understand fully. Overall, we ended up 11th in the competition. We learned a tremendous amount throughout the two-year process, and it would not have been possible without the support of Santa Clara University, our sponsors and supporters, and the students and faculty who put in countless hours.
On April 29, 2013, we received the first truckload of steel that formed the base foundation of Radiant House. The steel was designed to carry the extra loads caused by transporting the house in modules to the competition. The steel frames give the rigidity and support required.
After we installed all of the steel components and connected them, we took an afternoon to have a barbecue to celebrate our achievements so far. Most of us did not know each other when the project first started, but by the end, many of us were best friends.
Just like the University's two previous entries in the Solar Decathlon, 2007 Ripple House and 2009 Refract House, Radiant House utilizes bamboo as structural members. About 70% of the floor and roof beams are bamboo joists that were developed, tested, and built on the Santa Clara University campus by undergraduate students. All of our bamboo arrived from Vietnam in a shipping container, mostly in its raw form.
Radiant House was built behind the Sobrato dormitory building on the campus of SCU. Here we are, installing the bamboo joists that support the floor of the house. In the distance, you can see our construction trailer as well as our roof prototype. The work schedule got off to a slow start until summer began, as we tried to balance school with this project.
In order to be able to use the bamboo in the house, we had to test the beams and prove that they were comparable in strength to traditional lumber joists. Once we built the final beams for the house, we had to test a certain percentage to make sure the manufacturing process we developed produced well-constructed beams.
This project would not have happened without the support of our advisors. Dr. Tim Hight has been the faculty advisor for all of Santa Clara University's Solar Decathlon teams. He was able to teach us everything we needed to know, especially about the mechanical systems. Without his guidance and wisdom, we would not have been able to complete this project.
The first walls put up on the house were those around the kitchen. It took us a few attempts to get them into position and to line up, but it was a great accomplishment and we began to get a three-dimensional feel of Radiant House.
We tried to do as much of the work as we could, ourselves. This included learning how to frame walls and then using our muscles to raise the walls into place. We were very thankful to have professionals who would help us with the assemlby of the different subsystems of the house.
Another one of the innovations that we incorporated into the house was a new racking system with rails that integrate the solar panels into the roof. These metal beams act as the support of the roof and the racking system, reducing cost and material. This was a state-of-the-art system and we were the first house in the competition to use it.
To make the installation of the solar panels easier, we built the entire roof module on the ground before lifting it onto the rest of the house. This allowed us to work at ground level and be safer and more efficient with our time.
On the back of every solar panel is a Tigo maximizer unit that ensures every panel is operating at its peak performance. It also feeds the data of each panel's production to a computer so that we can monitor every panel individually and be alerted to any issues.
After the roof was completed, we were able to lift it into place, and everything lined up! The roof has been put on and taken off multiple times throughout the building and transportation process and we never had a single issue with it.
Once all the subsystems were installed in the subfloor, we used an organic spray foam insulation to reduce heat loss or gain through the floor.
It takes a lot of food to keep a construction crew of college students happy. We would like to thank everyone who brought us food, including parents of team members, professors from the university, the Development Office, the Office of Marketing and Communications, and the School of Engineering. We are particularly grateful to Cathy and Rob Avon for feeding us throughout the entire project.
As the days got longer and longer, more of us could be found taking naps all around the construction site. We found that the gaps in the sub-floor were perfect spots to lie down and catch some Zs.
The heating and cooling system of the house is a radiant system that is mounted in the ceiling. To move the air around, and bring fresh air into the house, we also have a low flow circulation system. Pictured here is one of the ducts that carries this fresh air.
The control system for the house was completely designed, built, and programmed by students. The brain of the house was a Raspberry Pi controller and the muscle was 4 Arduinos. All this was controlled with a tablet computer, through which the user could adjust the temperature and lighting, as well as open and close windows and doors.
As part of the communications contest, we had to produce a website. These students were part of the web team, as well as the controls team.
During a delay in our schedule due to permitting issues, we took extra bamboo to make a doghouse, Ruff House. This was originally built for Shaido, Dr. T's dog. Tonya Nilsson is a civil engineering professor and a supporter of the project, and Shaido was our team mascot. We even took this house to the competition so dogs in Irvine could enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Fr. Reites, S.J. has been involved with all of Santa Clara University's solar houses, and he was a tremendous supporter. He was always out working with us and teaching us everything we needed to know in order to successfully build a house.
Before we packed the house up to transport it to the competition in Irvine, we had a sendoff celebration. It was a lot of fun to show the university community, our friends and family, as well as the public, the project that we had been working on for so long. We were especially honored to have Congressman Mike Honda, a faithful supporter of SCU's Solar Decathlon efforts (seen here in the back row), with us for the festivity.
Our SCU president, Fr. Michael Engh, S.J., stopped by to check out the house! We are very grateful for the support of the University to make this project a reality.
The heating and cooling system, our radiant system, was mounted in the ceiling. The tubes that carry the water are mounted in foam and drywall, and are installed similarly to how drywall is installed; just make sure to avoid the tubes!
Like any great project, we were behind schedule most of the time and this required us to work many late nights. At the beginning of the project, we thought we were pretty cool when we stayed at work until the sun went down. By the end of the project, we were wondering why we were still at work when the sun was coming up the next morning!
We made sure to work on all aspects of the competition, including practicing our cooking skills in SCU's 2009 solar house so we could dazzle our guests. The Home Entertainment contest required us to host two dinner parties for our Solar Village neighbors. In this category, we posted some of the highest scores in the history of the competition.
The mechanical room is by far the most complicated space in the house. This is where everything mechanical comes together and it is the brain of Radiant House. In the center is a reversible heat pump that is part of the radiant heating and cooling system.
This student-designed project is a heat exchanger that is mounted under the dryer. It uses the exhaust air from the dryer to preheat incoming air, making it more efficient.
The siding of our house is constructed of metal panels that are Tahoe Blue in color. We had to cut each one to size before installation.
The deck of the house was made out of bamboo, and we had to stain each of the boards, individually. It takes a lot of boards to form a 1500 square foot deck.
A unique design in our house is our solar thermal system. On the roof is a solar thermal collector to heat water. That water travels to this wine barrel, which houses a phase change material to store the energy and release it back into the water when the sun is down. This is supplemented by the electric hot water heater.
Many of the walls in the house had a finish surface of American Clay Plaster. This clay earth wall finish regulates humid air inside of the house by absorbing and releasing moisture naturally. These walls were fragile and had to be protected while being transported to the competition.
The controls team wanted to make sure they had the best looking system in the competition. Above, you can see the panel that is in the mechanical room. The lighting colors even change depending on the state of the system.
This tablet is used to control Radiant House, either from inside the home or from anywhere in the world over the Internet. This includes control of the lights, blinds, windows, doors, and temperature.
The first piece of the house to be lifted and loaded onto the trucks to head to Irvine was the roof. The house made it onto the trucks with no incidents, but we did have one small moment of fear when a module dropped a few feet onto the ground.
It takes a surprising amount of planning and trucking capacity to move a house and construction crew across a state. The house travelled on four different trailers, seen above. The deck travelled on a separate truck, the furniture and other loose parts on another, and a third had all of our tools and equipment.
After eight long days of reconstruction in Irvine, Radiant House was finally completed and ready for people to tour it. Over the course of the competition, we had more than 20,000 people tour Radiant House.
The interior theme of Radiant House was "natural modern." We strived to make the interior livable and versatile, and tried to use as much natural material as possible. We wanted to show that a homeowner can live a comfortable lifestyle and not have to give up any comforts in order to be sustainable.
The kitchen of Radiant House is very open and is positioned in the middle of the great room. In any house, the kitchen is the heart of the home and is where people gather, so we wanted it to be very open and inviting but also functional for preparing and serving meals.
The center module of the home included the second part of the great room. All of the furniture in the house is movable, so the homeowners can arrange the house depending on their needs. The picture above shows this part of the great room in the living room configuration, but it can easily be transformed into the dining room, with natural lighting from all sides.
Around the corner from the great room is the laundry area. While these look like standard appliances, we did make some modifications. Under the dryer there is a heat exchanger which uses the exhaust air from the dryer to preheat the incoming air, increasing its efficiency. On the right side is our brag wall with pictures taken throughout the project.
The bathroom reflects the rest of the design philosophy of "natural modern." The tiling on the walls is recycled porcelain, and the design represents the bamboo that forms part of the structure of the house.
Radiant House has a large bedroom. The wall behind the bed, like other walls in the house, is finished with a natural clay material.
The mechanical room is where all the electrical and mechanical systems come together.
The back deck of Radiant House is the private deck of the house. There is an awning that covers the entire area to provide shade to the deck as well as to shade the south windows of the house.
All around the house there are separate landscaping zones to represent the different environments in which the house would be able to function. The west side of the house was the dry zone and we had a beautiful cactus garden along the ramp.
2013 Solar Decathlon Team Beth Avon, Craig Carlson, Ho Joon Cha, Vincente Ciancio, Mike Dewane, Richard Dobbins, Taylor Donato, Jay Dubashi, Jake Gallau, Brian Grau, Chris Heckert, Mike Holligan, Nick Jensen, Maggie Jones, Kathryn Karasek, Matt Kelly, Cora Lemar, Meyling Leon, Bryce Mariano, Nick Page, Nicole Pal, Megan Sacia, Joe Soares, Josh Summers, Brittnie Swartchick, Paul Thurston, Andy Truong, Alex Waschura
This project would not have been possible without the generous donations and support from our major sponsors. Hallmark Construction U.S Department of Energy Pasha Transportation Applied Materials Santa Clara University Testarossa Winery Design Within Reach Summers and Sons Artik Art and Architecture Maria Yee Bosch Messana Air-Ray Conditioning Pine Cone Lumber Bill Cline & Steve Ashford General Contractors, Inc. The Avon Family Mary and Tim Healy The Drocco Family (in memory of Brian Drocco to honor the 2007 team) 4 Leaf Inc. MPM Sunplanter SOS Steel Silicon Valley Power Cupertino Electric CH Reynolds Construction Testing Services Mobile Modular Chargepoint EST Santa Clara University Bronco Builders Association Tigo Energy Text: Brian Grau Photos: Chuck Barry, Jay Dubashi, Brian Grau, Timothy Hight, James Reites, S.J., Nicole Pal, and the U.S. Department of Energy