Building the home of the future

Team Solar NEST finished 10th among 140 schools that applied to take part in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. 

Campus competitors are redefining the family home

Solar NEST

THE FUTURE OF HOME-BUILDING— Students and faculty are building a zero-energy home that could serve as a model for California living.

They hammered, they sawed, they wired, they decorated. Challenged to design and construct an energy-efficient family home on the Sac State campus, 75 students and faculty from across the University spent the better part of their year building a 996 square-foot, net-zero energy house from the ground up.

Only to break it apart and transport it halfway down the state.

This month, the crew—dubbed Team Solar NEST (which stands for Natural, Elegant, Sustainable, Tranquility)—is competing in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 in Irvine, Calif. The worldwide contest challenges 16 collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered homes that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The team had eight days to reconstruct the home at the event site.

“This particular project is even more interesting since it’s a modular house,” says construction management major Thomas Johnston. “We have to break it up into pieces and make everything connect and disconnect.”

Mikael Anderson, chair of the Department of Construction Management, says it’s one of the most challenging projects he’s worked on, but one the team has embraced.

For the members of Team Solar NEST—which include representatives from construction management, mechanical engineering, interior architecture, business administration, public relations and graphic design—contributing to the construction of a home that will be the new standard in California is invaluable.

“It’s important for us to promote that we can build houses that are entirely solar-powered, decent-sized, presentable and efficient,” says Johnston. “We can generate excitement within the community and encourage people to buy homes such as this one.”

With upcoming changes to state residential building codes, Team Solar NEST is also helping California homebuilders prepare to meet the impending requirements.

“If national homebuilders are not constructing solar homes today, they’re in trouble.” Anderson says. “By 2020, all new residential construction in California must achieve net-zero energy use.”

Anderson credits lead faculty advisor Gareth Figgess for bringing multiple departments together to collaborate on the job, which was a key to the team’s success.

“All of these groups are incorporated with the project from cradle to grave, which is unique.” Anderson also says their success is 100 percent leveraged upon their local industry partnerships. “Not only are all the building materials donated, but we’ve secured funds for housing, transportation and food costs during the month of competition,” he says.

To support team Solar NEST, visit Solar Nest.org 

See the building process in action with our Solar NEST video.

Return to Sac State Magazine