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UC Davis Students Design Solar Home For Farmworkers

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

This zero net energy (ZNE) home is unlike others entered in the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon because of its low-cost construction.

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

UC Davis students are competing and hoping to win the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon. The most cost-effective, energy-efficient solar powered home will win. 

ucdavis solar house rooftop ff 092115The zero net energy (ZNE) home's inverted "butterfly" roof design allows water used to cool the roof to drain and be recycled for later use. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Construction workers are attaching the solar panels to the butterfly roof, and nailing the floor together. 

Frank Loge is a UC Davis civil engineering professor and the faculty advisor on the zero-net energy Aggie Sol House.

"A zero-net energy house is a house that over some defined time period -- it's usually a year -- will put energy on the grid that's equivalent to or more than the  amount of energy that the house uses."

ucdavis solar house water tank ff 092115A large tank holds recycled water used to cool the zero net energy (ZNE) home by sprinkling the roof. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The 1,000 square foot home is designed as efficiently as possible, with heavy insulation, a night sky cooling system and radiant flooring.

The target market is low-income farmworkers.

"When this house actually goes to market it would be between $70 and $100 a square foot," says Loge.

He says the UC Davis team is guaranteed the affordability award at that price point.

More than 300 students have participated in the project.

ucdavis solar house workers ff 092115UC Davis students. faculty and construction workers diligently finish building a home for the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Tina Chen, the project's student design director, proudly watches the workers put the finishing elements on the home.

"I've never had something so large of my design come to life in this way. Everything we do in school is a little more conceptual and just like models, so this is just incredible!" she exclaims.

Next week the house will be taken apart, trucked to Irvine, California and reassembled, where it will be judged for the competition from October 8 -18.

About 20 universities nationwide are competing, including Sac State.