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Refract House | Solar Decathlon + Architecture City
Posted By KG On September 4, 2009 @ 12:30 pm In San Francisco,Solar Decathlon,Sustainable Building | No Comments
Project managers open the doors to Refract House, ready for Solar Decathlon 2009, Photo by Kevin Gardner
What happens when an architect and an engineer walk into a Jesuit university in Silicon Valley  and end up on a lightbender  wholly rolling for the nation’s capital? This year’s Solar Decathlon , a Dept. of Energy best-of competition for smart and sunny houses, chose Team California  to compete in the finals in Washington, D.C. The West Coast team is the result of two very different schools joining forces — 100+ students, graduates and advisers were pooled from Santa Clara  University  (mostly engineering) and California College of the Arts  (architecture and design) to create this solar dream team that created this truly energy-efficient, sun-powered Refract House .
Team California designed, built, market and run the Refract House, Photo by Kevin Gardner
On Sept. 1, the team celebrated completion of their work-in-progress with a special “send-off” that also kicked off the local annual Architecture and the City Festival . The public can tour the Refract House at SCU  through Sept. 9, after which, the home will be broken down (from the outside in) for the long haul to Washington’s mall and the decathlon.
For approximately $500,000 and tons of community support , the California crew artfully blends high- and low-tech features throughout the Refract House in an eco-savvy, out-of-the-box demo of attractive, comfortable and energy-efficient living — the three main principles of the decathlon. “Energy efficient homes don’t need to be funky,” declares Mike Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials , the team’s top sponsor. “[The students] have shown and proven that it can be beautiful and effective.”
Team CA outfitted the requisite 800 sq. ft. with the three Ws — windows, wire and wood — then brilliantly wrapped it all around a central courtyard for a bold mix of functional minimalism and expansive environment. “Each primary living space extends into that central courtyard as the physical and conceptual core of the house,” says project manager Kyle Belcher.
Courtesy of SCU Professor James Reites, S.J.
Natural breezes ventilate the home, and water tubes hidden above and below radiantly heat the floor and cool the ceiling as needed. Select noble gases  inside the double- and triple-paned windows help mediate the sun’s influence. Walls come insulated with vegetable oil-based polyurethane and used denim for sustainable comfort, all lit up by LEDs  for kicking back with the LCD  TV.
Shade screens adjust, a table rolls, and the washer and dryer stack. A waterproof bathroom, biodegradable bed , and handcrafted dishes, textiles and fixtures exquisitely balance the efficient appliances and consoles. Outside, planter boxes of native flora and an edible garden lead to an attractive pool, inspired by “evolved riparian zones ” (sublime practicality) with gravel and plants to help filter and clean the greywater  and soil.
A sprinkling of silicon from the valley  lets you monitor and manage it all remotely or on-site from the user’s touchscreen of choice: laptop, iPod/phone or in-house dashboard. “People are wary of smart houses that make decisions for them,” explains Preet Anand, a project specialist and board member, “so we decided to keep ours resident-driven.”
And student-driven, as well, emphasizing California’s status as the only team led by undergraduates. Negotiations also are underway to reopen the Refract House outside a major city hall in the SF Bay Area upon Team California’s return. See more about it all on video at CBS 5 , ABC 7 and YouTube .
+ Refract House 
+ Solar Decathlon 
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URL to article: http://inhabitat.com/refract-house-solar-decathlon-architecture-city/
URLs in this post:
 Jesuit university in Silicon Valley: http://www.scu.edu/news/features.cfm?b=65&c=5479
 lightbender: http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/07/21/refract-house-students-design-sun-powered-zero-energy-home/#more-39910
 Solar Decathlon: http://www.solardecathlon.org/
 Team California: http://www.scu.edu/engineering/solardecathlon/
 Santa Clara: http://www.scu.edu
 California College of the Arts: http://www.cca.edu
 Refract House: http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/07/21/refract-house-students-design-sun-powered-zero-energy-home/
 Architecture and the City Festival: http://www.aiasf.org/Programs/Public_Programs/Architecture_and_the_City/special_events.htm#solar09
 Refract House at SCU: http://www.refracthouse.com
 tons of community support: http://www.refracthouse.com/index.php/sponsors/
 Applied Materials: http://www.appliedmaterials.com
 noble gases: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_gas
 LEDs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LED_lamp
 LCD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_crystal_display
 biodegradable bed: http://www.keetsa.com/index_simple.php
 evolved riparian zones: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-riparian-zone.htm
 greywater: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greywater
 silicon from the valley: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_Valley
 CBS 5: http://www.scu.edu/news/videos/Solar-Decathlon-Live-CBS5.cfm
 ABC 7 : http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=resources/lifestyle_community/green&id=6994480
 YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvHIxG9_xs0
 + Solar Decathlon: http://www.solardecathlon.org
 + Architecture and the City Festival: http://www.aiasf.org/Programs/Public_Programs/Architecture_and_the_City.htm
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