Team Orange County “Breaks” Ground for Casa del Sol

From left: IVC President Glenn Roquemore, UCI Provost and -Chancellor Howard Gillman, Chapman University President James Doti and Saddleback College President Tod Burnett. The sun smiled brightly on students, faculty, administrators, elected officials and industry supporters as they ceremoniously “broke” ground for the house named in its honor. Casa del Sol is the solar-powered house being designed by Team Orange County for entry in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The international competition will be held next October at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.

Team OC is a collaborative venture among UC Irvine, Chapman University, Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College (IVC). The four academic institutions’ leaders were on hand as well as Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway, CEO and President of FivePoint Communities Emile Haddad and Southern California Edison President Pedro Pizarro. Christina Shea, Irvine councilwoman and chair of the Orange County Great Park Board of Directors, served as master of ceremonies for the ground breaking event at IVC.

An international design competition, the solar decathlon challenges universities to create net zero solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. Team OC’s 1,000-foot Casa del Sol will incorporate innovative technology, including creative use of alternating current and direct current power, an energy management control system, photovoltaic and solar thermal integration,Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington is the Prinicpal Investigator for Team OC highly efficient passive and active HVAC systems, waste water recycle, a xeriscape landscape and 3-D printing.

Both Edison and FivePoint are generously and proudly supporting Team OC financially. Haddad, who serves as chair of UCI’s Board of Trustees, told the audience that “this next generation of students will go down in history as innovators. With Team OC, we will tell the world that Orange County is not a small sleepy place, but a center of innovation.”

All four leaders from each institution spoke to the crowd: UCI Provost and Chancellor Howard Gillman, IVC President Glenn Roquemore, Chapman University President James Doti, and Saddleback College President Tod Burnett.

“Team OC is an extraordinary example of hands-on learning for the students who are involved,” said Gillman. “The lessons learned, the work you’ll do, will make your experience as students deeper and richer and prove invaluable your whole life.”

Doti mentioned, as did others, the unprecedented nature of the collaboration between a public research university, a private institution and two community colleges. “It is not the norm, for all four to come together,” he said. “I believe that when we come together great things can happen. And we can serve as a model for how to deal with other problems we face in society and on our planet.”

Alex McDonald is project manager of Team OCRoquemore noted that the very site on which the audience was sitting was where Casa del Sol would be constructed.  “IVC is very proud to be a part of Team OC. All our students will benefit from this experience. I’d like to express our deepest appreciation to [Samueli School Dean] Gregory Washington for his vision to enter a local team. Today, is the firing of the starting gun. Students, the project is in your hands, your institutions are behind you.”

Alex McDonald, a UCI mechanical engineering master’s degree student, is Team OC’s project manager, and has been managing the student teams from the four institutions. He explained that Casa del Sol would be a flexible house designed for a multigenerational family, and its design is inspired by the California state flower, the poppy. Like the poppy, the house is drought-resistant, diurnal and well adapted to Southern California. Its passive solar features open the building up during the day, allowing it to embrace prevailing ocean winds and effectively increase its living area. At night, the house closes to maintain a comfortable living environment.

Saddleback’s Burnett closed the program by noting how impressed he was with all the students involved in the project.

McDonald noted that many women have stepped up to help Team OC. He recognized 10 women integral to the project so far. Architects Lindsey Engels, LPA; Julie Yang, Carrier Johnson + C U L T U R E; and Barbara Chou, Saddleback College; July Aye, UCI civil engineering student; IVC Professor Ilknur Erbas-White and IVC students Milena Tintcheva and Dorsa Shirazi; Edison International’s Jennifer Manfre; and Chapman students Ginah Yoo and Lotus Thai.

“STEM is too important to leave to the men,” McDonald said. “It is the leadership of our women that is going to help us win this competition come 2015. Go Team Orange County!”