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Team California Wins Architecture Contest in Solar Decathlon
Posted: Monday, October 12, 2009 |

California College of the Arts (CCA) and Santa Clara University (SCU), competing as Team California, took the lead in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon this morning by winning the architecture contest with a score of 98 out of a possible 100.

Refract House by Team California

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Team California takes the lead in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon with its entry ‘Refract House’

Evaluating three main factors—architectural elements, holistic design, and inspiration—the jurors praised Team California’s house as “beautiful in every respect.” They commented specifically on its “excellent project documentation, crystal-clear concept, and successful translation of a regional architecture to Washington DC.”

Refract House by Team California

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Exterior of the Refract House

“This project broke out of the box and made exterior and interior space appear as one,” they continued, “with a varied series of sensations from the cool, shaded entry to the cantilevered balconies and a series of microclimates above and beyond” the requirements of the competition.

Refract House by Team California

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Interior of the Refract House

Team California also placed third today in the market viability contest, in a tie with Iowa State University, scoring 92 out of a possible 100. The jurors praised Team California’s “excellent drawings” and were impressed with the fact that the team interacted with its target market, even inviting them over for coffee.

Refract House by Team California

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Students constructing their Solar Decathlon entries on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

CCA’s Director of Architecture Ila Berman commented, “The Solar Decathlon has been a tremendous opportunity for CCA students to apply their capacity for creative innovation in culture, media, and technology. They are thinking about the future of our planet and generating new, responsible models for green living. Our collaboration with Santa Clara’s Engineering Department was a remarkable experience, embodying one of our leading goals: to engage in multidisciplinary research and design in support of important, project-based initiatives. Our future as architects, designers, and engineers depends on our ability to collectively, creatively, and intelligently deal with the kinds of challenges that this competition proposes. I am thrilled that we had the opportunity to participate, and I am very proud of the students.”

Refract House by Team California

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Students constructing their Solar Decathlon entries on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Refract House Design

Team California has proven that you can live sustainably without compromising aesthetically. Its entry in the competition, titled Refract House, takes advantage of the latest advances in both technology and design.
Inspired by the outdoor lifestyle of the West Coast, Refract House has an expansive feel despite its compact, 800-square-foot footprint. The house creates strong connections between indoor and outdoor spaces, with 700 square feet of decking that includes a large central courtyard. Strategically placed openings extend each living space to the outside, contributing to the overall feeling of spaciousness.

Refract House by Team California

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Students constructing their Solar Decathlon entries on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The lighting design also creates a sense of bringing the outdoors in by utilizing different daylighting strategies such as clerestory windows and large sliding doors. This has the added benefit of minimizing the electric load. The inviting, tranquil interior design incorporates materials and products from individuals and companies that have demonstrated their dedication to sustainable practices.

Refract House by Team California

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Students constructing their Solar Decathlon entries on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

There are some surprising elements, for instance a lamp made from plastic drinking straws. Reclaimed California redwood rainscreen covers the house’s exterior, providing a warm hue and varied texture.

Refract House by Team California

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Team California

Collaborative Effort

Students from many different disciplines—including architecture, ceramics, engineering, fashion design, furniture, glass, graphic design, and interior design—contributed to Refract House. From the California clay plateware to the fine art on the walls, the furniture, and the clothing in the closet, all of the elements of Refract House were created or designed by students. CCA’s Project Manager (and CCA architecture student) Kyle Belcher comments, “It’s exciting to see the results of two years of intense collaboration, not only between two schools, but also among architects, engineers, graphic designers, business students, artists, and interior designers.” Says SCU’s Project Manager Allison Kopf, “Santa Clara University is proud of how much it’s accomplished with California College of the Arts. We seamlessly merged engineering and design to create a luxurious, comfortable, eco-friendly home.”

Refract House by Team California

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Rendering of Refract House

Architecture Programs at CCACCA’s undergraduate and graduate architecture programs currently have an enrollment of 250 students. Both are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The undergraduate program, established in 1986, offers a five-year professional bachelor of architecture degree. CCA’s Master of Architecture Program was launched in 2004 and was formally granted NAAB accreditation in January 2008.

Refract House by Team California

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Rendering of Refract House

In the Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, 20 university-led teams from around the world compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, functional, and energy-efficient solar-powered home.

Images: Team California’s Flickr Stream



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