Originally published on 1Sun4All.
One if my favorite features of California State University, Sacramento‘s net-zero energy home for the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015, is the spacious outdoor deck that expands the interior spaces and lets the light “cascade in.” The master bedroom has its own entry onto a porch, a private retreat, which connects to the deck that runs along most of the length of the solar-powered house. The use of clerestory windows and overhanging roofs is an appealing traditional technique used to incorporate seasonal daylighting and the raised ceilings are a familiar, relaxed California feature.
From the DOE Solar Decathlon video shown below it looks like the design team for Sacramento State has given their Reflect Home surprisingly more livable space than we usually see in a Solar Decathlon home with the expansive indoor-outdoor spaces created comfortably beneath the skylit deck.
Sacramento is nicknamed the City of Trees, so it made sense for the Sacramento State team to showcase nature in its Solar Decathlon 2015 project. The team’s Reflect Home does just that by embracing the city’s sense of expansive greenery.
The team examined elements throughout the city to come up with a contemporary design that combines indoor and outdoor living spaces.
“We wanted to reflect Sacramento not only in the house’s architecture but its openness, including the California Great Room, which transitions to the back yard,” says decathlete Rosni Pann, the team’s project executive. “Everything about the home really shows what Sacramento is about and how we approach things. We’re warm and inviting. That’s Sacramento.”
While incorporating features throughout the Reflect Home to make it both ultra-efficient and affordable, the team’s focus was on ensuring a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors.
“We really wanted to bring the outside in. It does this in an elegant way,” Pann says.
Upon entering, visitors can see not only the spacious living room and kitchen but also the back yard, which is separated from the interior by accordion doors.
“In Sacramento, we’re fortunate to have the weather so that we can use that outdoor space most of the year. We’re a community that loves to be outside, to have family and friends over. But you can also have privacy by closing the doors,” says Pann.
The team plans to begin construction in mid-March on a campus lot. Work could last several months—and then the team hopes to disassemble the house and repeat the process a second time to improve efficiency.
Watching this unfold will also serve as a sort of living laboratory on sustainable construction.
“Because it’s on campus, all the students—and residents of Sacramento—will know what the Solar Decathlon is all about,” Pann says. “We’re encouraging everyone to come by and people in the community to mentor us.”
Learning to integrate a number of disciplines, ranging from marketing to interior design and construction, has been a fascinating process.
“We have so many departments working on this. That’s been one of the most interesting things about this project,” Pann says. “It’s fun to see how all these people are coming together, and everybody wants to bring something.”
The team encountered some headwinds early on in fundraising. But now, with more tangible signs of progress, such as the start of construction, buzz is building. In addition, the strong reputation of the school’s construction management program has helped the decathletes gain support.
Pann, who will graduate this May, has already begun working full-time as a project engineer for a Sacramento building company, which is a job she landed as the result of previous internships in construction.
Now, as they head toward construction, she thinks ahead about seeing the project take shape in Irvine, California, and expects to feel “intense joy, relief, and pride. When we complete this house, it will be amazing.”
And even when it’s part of the Southern California landscape, the Reflect Home will still represent the spirit of Sacramento, always welcoming the outdoors and sharing its warmth for guests.
The computer-animated walkthrough of Reflect Home via DOE Solar Decathlon 2015 | Image Credits: Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon 2015 California State University, Sacramento, team