This October, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon—a biennial competition encouraging schools from around the country to create affordable, solar powered, Net Zero houses—will be held outside of Washington D.C. The new location, in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, gives SCI-Arc and Caltech a distinct home field advantage. The team of 16 SCI-Arc and 20 Caltech students is creating a fascinating structure, called DALE, which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment (their last entry was called CHIP.. get it?) that could only be possible in the moderate Southern California climate.
The 600-square-foot home splits in half and rolls apart on rails at the push of a button, creating a large central courtyard. Photovoltaic panels project from the rooflines to provide shade for the courtyard and the home’s steel and lumber frame is wrapped in a tight vinyl covering. Keeping up with the net zero efficiency demands of the competition, the house will utilize solar thermal heating and energy star rated appliances in addition to the rooftop solar panels, but its small size is one of the greenest things about it. “It would be great to show people we don’t need to live in enormous McMansions in Southern California,” said team member Paige Chambers. The project is being funded by several sources, including the Department of Energy. A mockup is being built in the SCI-Arc parking lot and should be finished by August. The decathlon, which includes 20 teams, will take place from October 3-13.