A blend of student initiatives and engineering ingenuity

October 20, 2016

Have you ever considered the combination of energy-efficiency, net-zero emissions, and renewable energy to build a truly energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly, and innovative home? UC Berkeley’s own Solar Decathlon Team is on a quest to blend engineering and design ingenuity with environmentally-friendly concepts and to build their first zero-emission home from the ground up!

This UC Berkeley team is entering their design to the “Solar Decathlon”, a two-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy which inspires college students to design, fund, and build a net-zero energy home. This competition not only provides a forum for students to apply their knowledge to create an innovative solution, it also teaches them how to organize a well-functioning and diverse team in order to achieve the final goal. Furthermore, the team members of UC Berkeley’s Solar Decathlon also unite under the most important value of this competition: to combine human ingenuity with environmental consciousness, in order to address the increasing emissions from buildings and homes. Students have thoroughly enjoyed this process and here are their thoughts –

"It gives me an outlet to creatively apply the concepts I learn inside the classroom. I feel personally invested in the success of this real world project." -Ruth McGee, Junior

“While the studio classes I take are design focused, this project brings the energy and environmental factors of design into my education."- Michelle Margolies, Sophomore

Innovating alternative solutions to our conventional homes is important, especially when about 40% of total U.S. energy consumption came from uses in residential and commercial buildings (EIA 2015). The Solar Decathlon Team’s design of a net-zero emission home maximizes the use of natural lighting and solar heating in order to reduce amount of energy consumptions in buildings. In addition to designing for energy efficiency, the Team also addresses the social issue of affordable housing. The intention will be to site the house on a more permanent basis in the City of Richmond, a city that is fighting for affordable housing. By building a wood-framed house, the Team consciously selects materials that are local to Richmond, which allows local carpenters and builders to partake in this project. This will generate a sense of community and inspire more implementations of socially-conscious and environmentally-friendly homes.

By incorporating the theoretical aspects of UC Berkeley’s education with experiential learning and design, the Solar Decathlon team members hone their technical skills and apply their knowledge to create a home that embraces the values of human ingenuity and human-environment harmony. "Solar Decathlon is bringing together everything you wish you had studied in your classes."-Thomas Jacintho, Senior

The Solar Decathlon Team will enter their competition in Denver, Colorado in October, 2017. Stay tuned for more updates on their website: https://solardecathlon.berkeley.edu/