Team Santa Clara understands that after working their entire lives, retired couples want a fairly simple home that won't eat up all their time and money. Which is why they wrapped their Radiant House currently competing at the Solar Decathlon competition in Irvine, California, with low-maintenance metal siding and added naturally-strong bamboo decking. Deceptively simple in design, this zero net energy home probably exudes the most natural vibe given its clay walls, a student-designed bamboo wall and joist system, and all sorts of interior fittings and furnishings made with breathable materials. But it also boasts a few salient technological innovations as well, including a magnetic induction cooktop and a refrigerator and freezer unit that only uses as much energy as an incandescent light bulb.
Like all of the Solar Decathlon homes, the Radiant House takes its energy from the ubiquitous California sun vis–à–vis a 7.14kW solar array attached to an innovative rooftop racking system. That being said – this compact 980 square foot prefabricated dwelling doesn’t need much energy to run thanks to earth walls and efficient appliances that reduce its load. Large operable clerestory windows that illuminate the home naturally and LED lighting also contribute to the minor energy requirements. And though it never gets very cold in Santa Clara, a radiant heating system will keep the target retired couple perfectly comfortable.
We’re particularly enamored with this team’s attention to interior detail. “The Great Room” – or the combined living and dining area – is flexible in design and can be used for larger gatherings or small intimate evenings, while the master bedroom and bathroom remain private. For passing time on sunny days, two exterior options are available to occupants: either they can while away the hours on the spacious deck out front, built to last, or out back under a special semi-permeable awning that provides protection from the elements without choking natural light. A ChargePoint electric vehicle charging station outside is solar-powered, and a variety of drought-resistant, low-maintenance plants preview California’s incredible biodiversity. Currently among the top six homes, this tidy design has done well to achieve its three most important aims: efficiency, economy, and elegance.