By Kat Kerlin

Team Aggie Sol set out in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon to show that zero-net energy construction can be affordable. The team succeeded, tying for first place in the competition’s affordability contest.

Team Aggie Sol also tied for first in the commuting contest, in which the decathlon called for each participating to use its home’s electric system to charge an electric vehicle, and drive it — shooting for a distance of 25 miles or more in two hours or less eight times during the week of the competition.

Fourteen teams competed in this year’s decathlon, which wrapped up last weekend in Irvine.

The Aggie Sol house, designed for farmworkers, encompasses nearly 1,000 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bath. It cost in $249,312 to build, or about $2.49 per square foot.

The team posted on its Facebook page: “We are also proud to say we’ve worked with a few large home builders and with a few tweaks we know we could shave at least another $50k off the house cost! If you ask us, that’s a pretty cheap designer sustainable house!”

The team, made up of UC Davis students and graduates from a variety of disciplines, tied for first in affordability with team Mass/Central America (Western New England University, Universidad Tecnologica de Panama, and Universidad Tecnologica Centroamericana).

The Solar Decathlon, as the name implies, involves 10 contests, including market appeal, architecture, engineering, communications, comfort, appliances and the level of energy produced versus energy consumed (energy balance).

Team Aggie Sol tied for first in the commuting contest with nine other teams, and placed third in energy balance and fourth in architecture. Overall, UC Davis placed seventh in the competition.

The decathlon championship went to New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology, which built a “shore house” designed to provide extra protection against extreme weather, like hurricanes.

Campuswide effort

The Aggie Sol home was the result of a campusewide, multidisciplinary effort. Team members came many academic backgrounds — including design, engineering, sociology and communications — while faculty and staff pitched in from the Center for Water-Energy Efficiency, Institute of Transportation Studies, Plug-In Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center, Water and Cooling Efficiency Center, Design and Construction Management, Safety Services and other units.

Utilities and Facilities Management employees, and other staff, faculty and student volunteers also lent a hand — and hammer — as the construction period drew to a close.

Team Aggie Sol built its home on two trailers, then split the house in two and hauled the trailers to Irvine. Team members put the house back together, added landscaping and even cooked dinners in the house to show it was functional, as part of the competition.

The Department of Energy puts on the decathlon every two years, and this was the first time UC Davis participated.

Team Aggie Sol’s decathlon page, with photos and a computer-animated walk-through of the house.

Link to Dateline UC Davis publication of story.

Architect Magazine spoke to the Aggie Sol Team about how they built water conservation into their Solar Decathlon 2015 home. View the video here.