SCU CCA Refract House US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon
This graphic tells the story of our interdisciplinary style.  We call it the orb of collaboration.
This graphic tells the story of our interdisciplinary style. We call it the orb of collaboration.
Students and Faculty judging the quality of renders and graphics.
Students and Faculty judging the quality of renders and graphics.
A picture showing off the roundtable nature of Saturday Sessions.
A picture showing off the roundtable nature of Saturday Sessions.
An attrition chart showing how CCA students were involved over time
An attrition chart showing how CCA students were involved over time
Another attrition chart for SCU.
Another attrition chart for SCU.
Working at the chalkboard to try and organize ourselves.
Working at the chalkboard to try and organize ourselves.
concept  ::  Process  ::

Initial Design

California College of the Arts took the Solar Decathlon to the classroom and had a studio in the Winter of 2007/2008, where 16 students presented the first drafts of what solar home Team California would build. These designs were presented to a group of students from Santa Clara University, faculty from both institutions, professional architects, and professional engineers from the area.

These designs were eventually narrowed down to four designs, then underwent the same process and were narrowed down into two designs. The Refract House was eventually chosen due to the originality of the geometric design and the potential to showcase Santa Clara's engineering talent.

After the primary design was chosen, the team began focusing on nailing down detailed design features, engineering systems, communications and team branding, and raising initial funding for the project.

At this point, the engineers split into teams directed toward each individual system such as: thermal design, electrical design, plumbing, windows and doors, etc.

These teams worked on research and development for the rest of the school year, and assembled the first (and rather lackluster compared to the final) set of deliverables.

Summer 1

During the first summer, a team of students were chosen from SCU and CCA to stay and work the summer. Throughout the summer, the students learned a lot about communication between individuals and also about actual design of a home. The summer work continued in the R&D; field, major system designs and architectural designs began to get narrowed down.

This was a time when many experiments were carried out regarding what could and could not be done. For example, we had hoped to use Straw board panels in the home, most likely for a non-structural application like siding. The challenge of making a sustainable yet structural version of the board, while also manufacturing it, became too formidable. It was scrapped in the beginning weeks of Fall 2008 design.

Fall 2008

During the fall, the team learned that communication was more difficult than we thought and had to work through things like left vs. right brained thinking, long distances between schools, etc. We began to utilize online collaboration software to aggregate floor plans, solicit information, and communicate to the whole group. Additionally we began to use Saturday sessions as a big way to tackle issues. See the next session to see more about it.

Saturday Sessions

This is a great example of the sacrifice and passion of the undergraduate students of Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts. To bring our brains together and tackle specific issues, such as interior ceiling height so that the steel moment frames could be finalized, the relevant students from SCU and CCA would come together at one of the campuses. If SCU students came up to San Francisco one weekend, then CCA students would come down to Santa Clara the next.

This was collaboration. This was dedication. It happened almost every saturday from Fall of 2008 to April of 2009.

Summer 2009

The second summer was spent actually constructing the house. With pressures mounting, tensions running high, and rampant fatigue, we managed to still complete the house. On top of that, we held the photoshoot for SearchCafe and We completed the construction, held publicity events, and sent the house on its way to D.C

Interdisciplinary Student Design

The evolution of Refract House's design was influenced by an interdisciplinary group of students. Things were not dictated only by a group of Architecture students, nor a group of civil engineers. Architects and Engineers educated each other and put decisions through a really thorough hybridized review process.

For example, our windows and their glass were chosen off of three components of review: aesthetics, insulative properties, and sustainability (using aluminum windows versus vinyl).

We truly demonstrated collaboration by blurring traditional responsibilities. Instead we focused on our collective abilities on integrating all of our efforts. For a great graphic example of our interdisciplinary collaboration, refer to the Orb of Collaboration above.