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2015 Solar Decathlon: Casa Del Sol

University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College, Saddleback College

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U.S. Department of Energy


  • Team Leaders: Alex McDonald, Conrad Corral, Moritz Limpinsel, Camy Jun, Andy Truong, Paige Svehlak, Teagan Barnes, David Kincade, Josie Truong, Keefe Carrillo, Heather Greene, Mary Chen, Lotus Thai, JB Wagoner, Kristina Lamb, Reem Habib

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“Seeing the passion in the students and knowing they are going to make a difference in the world” was Richard King’s response to what was most rewarding about the Solar Decathlon.”

Teaming up for their first U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a coalition of students from the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College, and Saddleback College are uniting as one: Team Orange County. Comprised of a research institution, a private university, and two prominent community colleges, Team OC embodies a broad range of educational backgrounds and perspectives.

Saddleback College President Dr. Tod Burnett is, “looking forward to demonstrating the remarkable creativity and talent of our students.”

Not only is Team OC serving as a catalyst for clean energy, “we are inspiring the next generation of innovators,” stated Team OC member Clayton Heard. “People, especially students, think that they can’t make a difference,” added Team OC member Mario Maldonado says. “But this has a chance to inspire a sustainable outlook, and if that snowballs, more kids might feel like they can have an impact.”

The Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate students from all around the world to design and build a solar powered home. Not only does it encourage architectural and engineering advancements, judges also score the team on communications, home life, and market appeal.

“[There] is a challenge facing our generation and future generations, and when we can bring a collaborative team like this together, great things can happen,” said Chapman University President James Doti.  

For the past two years Team OC has been working on Casa del Sol—an innovative, zero-net energy home that draws inspiration from the California poppy. Casa del Sol addresses California’s growing population and changing demographics with a flexible and open floor plan, as well as a separate studio unit complete with its own bathroom and kitchenette. This studio can serve as additional space for a multigenerational family, for example a returning college student or an aging relative, or it can be rented out for secondary income.

Mimicking the diurnal and drought-resistant California poppy, Casa del Sol is designed specifically for Southern California. Our home addresses regional drought concerns, encourages the California indoor-outdoor lifestyle, and maximizes natural shading and ventilation to keep the inside temperature comfortable before relying on the home’s power supply.

Using research on the sun’s transitional path over Orange County, Casa del Sol incorporates architectural elements to passively regulate the homeowner’s heating, cooling, and lighting demand. This specific technique is called passive solar design. While sunlight is invited into the home during colder months, the architectural design also provides shelter against the hot summer sun and the destructive Santa Ana Winds in the fall.

Team Orange County’s Casa del Sol truly represents Orange County and what it needs. “We will show the nation that our campuses and Orange County lead the way on innovative, affordable solar power and other clean energy advances,” said Gregory Washington, Dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine.

Irvine Valley College President Glenn Roquemore said, “It’s a great opportunity for students to participate in this wonderful project that will no doubt be a profound and memorable experience for us all.”

Team OC member, and Champan University junior, Lotus Thai who double major in Business Administration and Environmental Science/Policy said, “this competition is unique by allowing students to learn outside of the traditional classroom. It also provides the opportunity to combine the spheres of business, politics, and science.”

To learn more about Team Orange County, please visit or follow us on Facebook (teamorangecounty), Twitter (@teamocsd), and Instagram (@teamocsd).

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