Contact: Sandra Stannard

Cal Poly Finishes Third in U.S. Department of Energy 2015 Solar Decathlon

IRVINE, Calif. — A team of Cal Poly students took third for their net zero home that wowed judges and spectators in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park.

The 1,000-square-foot INhouse, with its 15-foot folding window-wall between living room and an outdoor patio, finished behind first-place Stevens Institute of Technology at Hoboken, N.J., and runner-up, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

“We’re thrilled,” said Sandy Stannard, one of the team’s architecture faculty advisors. “We made a project that we are all incredibly proud of — a very beautiful, well-crafted net zero home.

“Also, the students who worked on it have had an incredible experience — a life-changing one. This experience will probably change the course of their professional careers.”

The first competition was staged in 2002 and has been held every two years since 2005. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In 2005, Cal Poly’s entry earned third place overall as well as a first for lighting and second for architecture in the individual competitions.

“Our students were challenged to build a cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive solar-powered house,” said Christine Theodoropoulos, dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. “They did just that with INhouse, and, working with our dedicated faculty and staff, created a remarkably beautiful home that features smart design and innovative products. They also raised $650,000 to pay for the project.

“Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with the result of their vision and craft. Our team of 100 students showcased what Learn by Doing can accomplish.”

The two student project leaders, who led students from a dozen majors, put the Learn by Doing ethos into action as the project evolved over the past two years, from concept to reality.

“We are just so honored to be here and to have made it through this incredible competition,” architecture student Lisa-Marie Mueller said at Saturday’s awards ceremony. “We should all be proud of ourselves, and there are so many wonderful things ahead of us.”

Alyssa Parr, another architecture student, thanked her teammates as well as faculty and administrative advisors.

“Learn by Doing is our school’s motto,” she told the crowd in a large tent on the village grounds, “and this totally takes that to the next level.”

Cal Poly earned several other honors in the 10 individual competitions. The team tied for first in commuting, took second in market appeal and home life, and was third in architecture.

Judges described INhouse as “beautifully planned — inside and out — spacious, bright and exquisitely detailed.”

“The jury walked into this house and simply said, ‘Wow,’ ” said Brian M. Baker, part of the panel that evaluated each homes’s market appeal.  “Drop-dead gorgeous. This house cultivates a smart resident while delivering a really smart home. Bottom line, this house not only is intuitive, interactive and integrated — it is inspriational.”

Alicen Kandt, jury coordinator for the architecture contest, lauded the “holistic design” that seamlessly connects interior and exterior living spaces.

Cal Poly “succeeded in creating a smart home that coaches the occupant toward a net zero energy-positive lifestyle through active participation with the building system,” Kandt said.

The awards confirm that “we made a house that is very appealing, comfortable and livable,” Stannard said. “To be in the top three shows we’re on to something.”

The house is heading back to campus, she said.

Local technical and consultative assistance has come from Maino Construction Co., Thoma Electric Co., Pro-Coatings and Quaglino Roofing, among others.

Stannard was assisted by six other Cal Poly faculty members in architecture, mechanical engineering, construction management, electrical engineering and computer science.

 “It was incredible to watch these students mature and grow,” she said. “That’s why we, the faculty, are in it. It is a challenging thing to mount, but for the sake of those students who engage with creating a real project that has to perform in real ways — it is just gratifying.”


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