Refract House: Students Design Sun-Powered Zero Energy Home

by , 07/21/09

refract house, cca, scu, california academy of the arts, santa clara university, solar decathlon, sustainable design, green design, zero energy home

California College of the Arts (CCA) and Santa Clara University recently assembled a team of over 100 students to design the Refract House, an ultra energy-efficient dwelling that promotes an “innovative and cost-effective strategy to climate-friendly building”. Taking up just 800 square feet, the Refract House is compact, energy efficient and green in just about every way imaginable, combining state of the art climate and energy monitoring technologies with solar-thermal and photovoltaic systems.

refract house, cca, scu, california academy of the arts, santa clara university, solar decathlon, sustainable design, green design, zero energy home

The Refract House is one of 20 entries from this year’s US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, which invites colleges and universities across the US to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar powered house. The Refract House gets its name from the form of the structure itself – the house is shaped like a bent tube, which allows it to take advantage of natural lighting by refracting light within. The house also creates a strong relationship with the outdoors and surrounding area by wrapping around a central courtyard that contains a landscape designed to reflect California’s climate and ecosystems.

The design of the Refract House is bold, innovative and somewhat futuristic, but the designers at CCA and SCU ensured the habitability of this zero energy structure. The residence will be on display to the public at this year’s Solar Decathlon, which runs from October 9-18 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

+ Refract House

+ Solar Decathlon

Via Arch Daily

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  1. joenewideas June 7, 2010 at 9:01 am

    I love to promote the program in Africa

  2. Greenotter August 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    The houses in the Solar Decathlon are designed to be transportable, and cutting-edge efficient. Some teams spend over a million on the house. Santa Clara was a surprise 3rd place in the last contest. This new design is beautiful.

    I get excited about the contest every two years when it is held, and follow news of it on the web. It is excellent training for a new generation of green architects, as well as a showcase for some wonderful new designs and engineering ideas.

    While “market viability” is one of the ten categories in the contest, I too regret that they don’t have another competition, in addition to the Solar Decathlon, for producing a super efficient, low-cost house, that could be mass produced, and would be immediately marketable to lower and middle class people. It would become a kind of Model-T for 21st century small green homes. However, the technology and style that the students explore in the Solar Decathlon, probably will have a way of trickling down.

    That the houses are small and have only one bedroom is not really an issue, to me anyway. Anything they accomplish in a small house can be replicated in a larger one. Also, the tiny house movement has shown that a person can live in a 120 sq. ft. home and be happy, so 800 sq. ft. could be enough for a couple anyway, especially if the couple is concerned with conservation of materials and energy.

  3. Trog July 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I really dislike that the majority of cool looking student designed prefabs are only one bedroom. Having a second bedroom for a studio or for kids makes these sorts of designs have a lot longer “shelf life” in my opinion. Or at least they would appeal to a wider audience. Bravo on the zero energy design though.

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