Each successive Decathlon brings stiffer competition. This is the fourth time the event has run and this year we are impressed by the waves of innovation not only in sustainable building practices, but in aesthetics. Green architecture does not mean ugly architecture after all! Team California brought home the Best in Architecture for their 800 square foot home that is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.
From the drawing board to the flashing details, the architecture and engineering teams were working hard to ensure the design intent came through in the finished product. The team, comprised of undergraduate architecture students from California College of the Arts and engineering students from Santa Clara University, has been working for a full year to design and build their house. Like all truly green architecture the house is designed specifically to suit the climate where it will ultimately reside in Northern California. Green features include passive solar design with maximized south facing glazing; a 8.1-kW photovoltaic system on the roof with panels that are integrated into the architecture; a radiant floor and ceiling system that both heats and cools the home; a seasonal greywater pond that feeds the landscape, including an edible garden terrace; and materials and lighting chosen with careful consideration to embodied energy and lifecycle.
It’s not often that architecture students are challenged to actually build what they’ve put onto paper. The engineers were a critical part of the team, helping the architecture students to problem solve as the construction began. The house was constructed over a course of 9 months on Santa Clara’s campus. The end result of the collaborative effort is quite stunning.
The design allowed for the building to break apart into three pieces and be loaded onto trucks for the long ride to Washington DC for the big event. On the mall the house had to be pieced together, and all the finishing touches re-applied to ready the house for the throngs of visitors who descend upon the mall to tour the houses.
The houses were judged in 10 areas including Architecture, Engineering, Market Viability, Net Metering (energy production vs. consumption), and Communications. All of the scores from each contest are totaled for the overall Decathlon winner. This year’s winner is Team Germany, with Illinois, and Team California close on their heels. Team California took home first in the Architecture and Communications categories and second place in Engineering. Congratulations, Team California, and thank you for showing us how beautiful green architecture can be.