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Title: Sacramento State Solar Decathlon 2015: Research Performance Final Report


Our primary objective is to design and build a 600-1000sf home that produces more energy than it consumes and to showcase this home at the 2015 Solar Decathlon in Irvine, CA. Further objectives are to educate consumers and home builders, alike (including K-12 students – the industry’s future consumers), inspire a shift towards the adoption of net-zero energy solutions in residential building, and to be a leader in the transformation of the California residential marketplace to a net-zero standard. Our specific mission statement for this project is as follows: Solar NEST strives to discover the future of sustainable, energy-efficient housing and deliver these innovations to home buyers at an affordable price. To make substantial improvements to conventional building methods with regard to aesthetics, performance, and affordability. Through our efforts, we aspire to bridge the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what is possible’ by providing unique, elegant simplicity.

  1. California State Univ., Sacramento, CA (United States). Dept. of Construction Management
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
California State Univ., Sacramento, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Building Technologies Office (EE-5B)
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States

Citation Formats

Anderson, Mikael. Sacramento State Solar Decathlon 2015: Research Performance Final Report. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.2172/1347691.
Anderson, Mikael. Sacramento State Solar Decathlon 2015: Research Performance Final Report. United States. doi:10.2172/1347691.
Anderson, Mikael. Tue . "Sacramento State Solar Decathlon 2015: Research Performance Final Report". United States. doi:10.2172/1347691.
title = {Sacramento State Solar Decathlon 2015: Research Performance Final Report},
author = {Anderson, Mikael},
abstractNote = {Our primary objective is to design and build a 600-1000sf home that produces more energy than it consumes and to showcase this home at the 2015 Solar Decathlon in Irvine, CA. Further objectives are to educate consumers and home builders, alike (including K-12 students – the industry’s future consumers), inspire a shift towards the adoption of net-zero energy solutions in residential building, and to be a leader in the transformation of the California residential marketplace to a net-zero standard. Our specific mission statement for this project is as follows: Solar NEST strives to discover the future of sustainable, energy-efficient housing and deliver these innovations to home buyers at an affordable price. To make substantial improvements to conventional building methods with regard to aesthetics, performance, and affordability. Through our efforts, we aspire to bridge the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what is possible’ by providing unique, elegant simplicity.},
doi = {10.2172/1347691},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Tue Mar 14 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Tue Mar 14 00:00:00 EDT 2017}

Technical Report:

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  • Our team was Team MASSCA (Massachusetts and Central America), which was a partnership of Western New England University (WNE) located in Massachusetts USA, The Technological University of Panama (UTP), and Central American Technological University (UNITEC) of Honduras. Together we had a group of 6 faculty members and approximately 30 undergraduate students. Our house is ‘The EASI’ House, which stands for Efficient, Affordable, Solar Innovation. The EASI house is rectangular with two bedrooms and one bath, and offers a total square footage of 680. Based on competition estimates, The EASI house costs roughly $121,000. The EASI house has a 5kW solarmore » system. Faculty and students from all three institutions were represented at the competition in Irvine California. Team MASSCA did well considering this was our first entry in the Solar Decathlon competition. Team MASSCA won the following awards: First Place – Affordability Contest Second Place – Energy Balance Contest. The competition provided a great experience for our students (and faculty as well). This competition provided leadership, endurance, and technical knowledge/skills for our students, and was the single most important hands-on experience during their undergraduate years. We are extremely pleased with the awards we received. At the same time we have learned from our efforts and would do better if we were to compete in the future. Furthermore, as a result of our team’s Inter-Americas collaborative effort, UTP and WNE have partnered to form Team PANAMASS (PANAma and MASSachusetts) and have developed The 3 SMART House for the inaugural Solar Decathlon Latin America & Caribbean competition held in Colombia.« less
  • The Solar Decathlon competition challenges students across the country to design and build a net-zero, market ready solar powered home. The bi-annual competition consists of ten contests that seek to balance the home on a scale of innovation. The ten contests were selected by to organizers to address all aspects of housing, including architecture, market appeal, engineering, communication, affordability, comfort, appliances, home life, commuting, and energy balance. Along with the criteria associated with the contests, the competition includes several design constraints that mirror those found in practical housing applications: including (but certainly not limited to) lot lines, building height, andmore » ADA accessibility. The Solar Decathlon 2015 was held at the Orange Country Great Park in Irvine, CA. The 2015 competition was Clemson University’s first entry into the Solar Decathlon and was a notable milestone in the continued development of a home, called Indigo Pine. From the beginning, the team reconsidered the notion of sustainability as related to both the design of a home and the competition itself. The designing and building process for the home reflects a process which seamlessly moves between thinking and making to develop a comprehensive design with a method and innovations that challenge the conventions of residential construction. This report is a summary of the activities of the Clemson University team during the two-year duration of the project leading to the participation in the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition in Irvine California.« less
  • The goal of the Orange County Great Park Corporation (Great Park) is to successfully host the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. In furtherance of that goal, tasks to be performed within the current reporting period include the following: Task 1.0 Arrange Site Team Visits for January 2015 The Great Park arranged appropriate meeting space for the site team visits over a three-day period, January 8, 2015 through January 10, 2015. Instead of a meeting in Hanger 244, the DOE requested a different meeting space. The working team met in the Operations offices on January 8th. The student teamsmore » were welcomed at the City of Irvine’s Lakeview Senior Center on January 9th, and came back on January 10th for breakout sessions. Task 2.0 Outreach Activities The following outreach activities related to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 occurred during and prior to the event: • Promoted the return of the Solar Decathlon 2015 on the City’s website. ( • Promoted the return of the Solar Decathlon 2015 through the City’s and Great Park’s social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter. (,,, • Promoted the return of the Solar Decathlon 2015 and student visit through a City Council Announcement. • Worked to set-up meetings between the U.S. Department of Energy team and potential donors/key stakeholders in Irvine. • Began ICTV filming and coverage of the Solar Decathlon 2015 teams. This includes student team interviews, interview with Richard King and b-roll footage. • Facilitated an interview with Sarah Farrar and the Orange County Register during the recent student visit in January • Information in May was provided to Irvine Unified School District and Tustin Unified School District promoting the three Education Days that the DOE will host during the event. More DOE information is due in August, which will be forwarded to the school districts that will provide important information for school tours. • A promotional ICTV video has been sent through the Irvine Chamber of Commerce and to dozens of businesses in Irvine promoting the Solar Decathlon 2015 and inviting attendance. • Cover story of Fall Inside Irvine magazine detailed teams competing in Solar Decathlon. Magazine goes to more than 100,000 Irvine residences. • Produced public service announcement with KPCC radio to air 9/28-10/16. Outreach also included a web banner on the station’s website. • Full-page advertisements in special sections of the Orange County Register, including UCI 50th Anniversary magazine that went to over 1 million readers of the Register, the Riverside Press Enterprise and the L.A. Times; Best of Orange County magazine; and Solar Decathlon special section. • Full-page ad in Urban Land magazine Sept./Oct. issue. • Produced ad for Irvine Global Village Festival brochure (tens of thousands in attendance at event.) • Ten posters displayed at Irvine Company properties throughout the City, including the Irvine Spectrum Center. • Rack cards promoting Solar Decathlon displayed at Irvine Spectrum Center, Discovery Science Center, Orange County Farm Bureau (at farmers markets) and at City facilities. • Tote bags promoting Solar Decathlon filled with magnets and rack cards on the event distributed at Irvine Global Village Festival, Great Park farmers market and UCI Festival of Discovery; some 8,000 bags handed out. • E-blast from City of Irvine Community Services Department included information on Solar Decathlon. (List contains 51,000 recipients.) • E-blast to Irvine Co. mailing list sent out 9/30. Web banner posted at • E-blast sent to Orange County Register mailing list on 10/6. • Web banner posted on Orange County Register’s homepage. • E-blast sent by Irvine Chamber of Commerce on 10/9. • E-blast using City’s GovDelivery to 2,100 on 10/12. • Produced additional ads for the Orange County Register to fulfill the in-kind agreement between the DOE and the Register: Friday, Oct. 9, Local front page strip ad; Saturday, Oct. 10, half-page Home & Garden section ad; Sunday, Oct. 11, full page Local section ad; Wednesday, Oct. 14, ½ page Main or Local ad; Friday, Oct. 16, full Local or Main section ad; Saturday, Oct. 17, half-page Home & Garden section ad; Sunday Oct. 18, full page Local or Main ad. • Produced two additional Register ads promoting final days of the event: Full page Main or Local ad for Thursday, Oct. 15 and full page ad in Irvine World News weekly publication. • Produced separate press releases on Solar Decathlon, Volunteer Effort, Children’s Activities Area and Final Days. • Produced and distributed Children’s Activities Days rack cards. • Continued to promote the event on the City’s webpage, Great Park webpage and social media channels. • ICTV produced the “Solar Decathlon Minute” videos, which were posted on the City’s YouTube channel and the website. • Four-minute video promoting Solar Decathlon shown on iShuttles in the City in weeks leading up to event. • Promoted a “Business Day” to local businesses in which businesses could sign up for tour led by Solar Decathlon docents. • Access Irvine Special Event Button running 9/28-10/18/15. • Access Irvine Push Notification on 10/15/15. • Facebook ad boost 10/13-10/18.« less
  • Coastal towns and cities across the Northeastern US, with their high population density, aged utility infrastructure, and unique geography, are increasingly vulnerable to climate change related storm events. In October 2012 superstorm Sandy highlighted the fragility of our current coastal building types and made clear the need for a new model of design and construction which works to understand and mitigate these weaknesses. Dramatic changes in public policy, championed by both The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are driving the rebuilding of these shore communities, often resulting in costly renovations, un-sustainable neighborhood configurationsmore » and in direct conflict with concurrent government policies such as The American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The SURE HOUSE demonstrates a series of new design solutions to these conflicting public policies and environmental imperatives. At Stevens Institute of Technology, the 2015 Solar Decathlon started with the challenge: Can we design a home for coastal New Jersey that dramatically reduces its energy use while protecting itself from the realities of a changing, more extreme climate? The SURE HOUSE merges the iconic 20th century shore home with 21st century building science. Utilizing innovative renewable energy technologies, a ‘Passive House’ level building envelope, and rugged glass-fiber-composite materials to flood-proof the home, the SURE HOUSE is a high-performance, net-zero-energy home, armored against extreme weather, designed for the contemporary lifestyle of the Jersey Shore and other vulnerable coastal communities. SUSTAINABLE At Stevens, we recognize that energy use in the home and workplace is directly connected to the growing problem of climate change. Reducing our energy consumption by designing higher performing, compact homes that are both functional, comfortable and desirable is the first critical step towards a modern, sustainable architecture for New Jersey and beyond. This is what informed the architectural design of the house. Configured about a compact form, thickly insulated and air-sealed walls eliminate thermal bridging and minimize energy losses while advanced glazing brings in free solar heat during the winter months. As a result of these passive design strategies, the SURE HOUSE has a greatly reduced carbon footprint requiring 91% less energy than a typical New Jersey home. Photovoltaic (PV) arrays on both the rooftop and operable shutters easily provide energy in excess of the home’s modest demands. The Stevens team considers a truly sustainable home in the era of climate change, one that prioritizes low energy use, and integrates right-sized renewable generation to supply the home’s needs. Low consumption, low production. RESILIENT In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the east coast of the US. In New Jersey alone there was an estimated 29.4 billion dollars in damages, 346,000 homes affected, and almost two and a half million people left without power, in some cases for over 10 days. Recovery from this storm and associated flooding is ongoing to this day, as many New Jersey homeowners grapple with the large costs of rebuilding and struggle to adapt to complicated new home building regulations. Damage from this storm to Hoboken, the home of the Stevens Institute of Technology’s campus, and to the New Jersey shore was extensive and many students on the SURE HOUSE team were directly affected by this historic event. The Stevens design team recognizes that in a world of more frequent and stronger storms, the ability to absorb and adapt to change is more important than ever. Successfully weathering the next storm and its aftermath is one of the primary goals in the design of the SURE HOUSE prototype. The SURE HOUSE introduces unique ‘dry flood-proofing’ methods to residential construction. Innovative wall and floor flood-proofing, utilizing durable composite sheathing materials adapted from the boating industry, were developed by the student team to render the SURE House’s building envelope flood proof up to the FEMA AE 6/7 Zone (+ 6/7 feet of water above sea-level). Designed and fabricated utilizing glass-fiber composite materials, the custom storm shutter system serves to protect the large glazed openings of the home from both air-borne debris impact and water infiltration during a storm event while also providing deterrence from the vandalism that often occurs in the aftermath of a calamitous event. During extended power outages, a ‘resilient’ solar array is capable of supplying critical amounts of energy and hot water to the home, without the use of battery storage or grid infrastructure. PV Description AC GRID-TIED PV SYSTEM The SURE HOUSE solar system consists of two distinct arrays, the grid-tied rooftop array which produces AC Powerand the shutter-mounted array which converts DC power generated by the modules directly into usable heat for the domestic hot water (DHW). The roof-mounted AC grid-tied array is comprised of three strings, two 11 module strings connected to an SMA SB 5000TL-US-223 inverter and a single 10 module string equipped and an SMA SB 3000TL-US-22 central inverter. All modules for the rooftop AC array are LG MonoX 2804 watt solar panels, chosen for their durability and efficiency. Inverter sizing and string size are optimized to the electrical characteristics of the chosen PV modules and the desired energy production, see Appendix 5B. The SURE HOUSE is projected to produce 12,353 kWh per year to meet 6,157 kWh per year of estimated consumption. Solar modules for the two AC grid-tied sub arrays are mounted on the main roof surface of the SURE HOUSE with a 10 degree tilt angle using a partially-ballasted polyethylene roof mounting system made by Renusol, which is particularly suited to the corrosive salt air of a coastal environment. This method was chosen for its installation simplicity and to limit detrimental roof penetrations. The 10 degree tilt optimizes the energy generated per roof area at a lower price, see Appendix 5A, and ensures that there is minimal wind uplift. DC SOLAR ELECTRIC DOMESTIC HOT WATER The SURE HOUSE’s approach to sustainable and resilient domestic hot water (DHW) consists of a unique, custom engineered DC solar electric hot water system. Employing the use of Advanced Energy’s DC electric PV heater (DCPVH)5 to heat domestic water well beyond the draw temperature, the SURE HOUSE is able to obtain a remarkably high solar fraction of 75% or more. The custom modified 80 gallon Vaughn DHW tank acts as a large solar ‘battery’ that stores heat energy in the form of hot water at almost 150 degrees, harvesting energy when the sun is out for use later in the day or overnight. The system, which uses electricity rather than heated fluid, is distinct from traditional ‘solar thermal’ systems by eliminating the dangers and associated maintenance issues of fluid based systems. By forgoing the use of external fluid loops, overheated solar collectors and pipes are not an issue for the SURE HOUSE system which never needs any yearly or seasonal flushing. In weather conditions where the integrated DCPVH unit cannot produce enough hot water via solar energy alone, the Vaughn hot water tank comes factory made with an AC powered 2.6 COP heat pump and a AC heating coil that serve as back-up heating elements. The DCPVH is powered by a DC array consisting of 10 custom-made Solbian by PVilion 180 watt, monocrystalline, flexible solar modules6. The Solbian modules are directly mounted to the top half of the operable storm shutters on the south façade of the SURE HOUSE. The SURE HOUSE team worked closely with PVillion, a PV system designer specializing in flexible architectural photovoltaics, to design an adhesive system that works with the glass-fiber storm shutter surface in a reliable manner over an extended period. Because this system operates in DC-only mode and never connects to the municipal power grid, the system can continue to create hot water safely and effectively even during grid disruption events. This hot water, and the energy stored within it, could be used for a range of activities including washing and cooking to more elaborate hydronic heating systems as desired. See Appendix 6 for system engineering, sizing and modeling.« less
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition that challenges student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. Because of balanced design priorities of architecture, engineering, innovation, performance, and energy use, teams have focused on a range of technologies in the built environment, from wall materials to home control systems, from electric lighting to HVAC equipment, and from geothermal to solar photovoltaic technology. This report provides insights into building technology innovation from a review of the Solar Decathlon competition entry designs, anecdotal experiences, and related market reports. The report describes example case studies of themore » evolution of technology solutions over time to illustrate the innovative, market-driving nature of the Solar Decathlon. It charts technologies utilized in the team designs over seven competitions and compares those to broader market adoption. It is meant to illustrate the technology innovation aspects of the competition, not to be a comprehensive or quantitative analysis. Solar Decathlon also has impacts on public perception of innovative technologies as well as workforce development through the thousands of participating students. The focus of these case studies is to showcase how it contributes to marketplace adoption of innovative energy technologies.« less