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Energetic Decathletes Ready for 2013 Competition

With the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon approaching, Team Santa Clara is readying for the biennial event taking place in Irvine, California, next October.

Student project manager Jake Gallau ’13 likens their preparations to launching a start- up: “Before we start building our solar-powered house, we have the development phase of design, engineering, budgeting, and raising money; and at the end of the day, we have to sell our house to sponsors, judges, and visitors. We’re definitely learning as we go—we have electrical engineers working on plumbing and structural engineers becoming experts at architectural drawing; it’s a great experience.”

solarAfter traveling to Spain to check out the European Solar Decathlon earlier this fall, the students are back on campus energetically tackling the engineering innovations that will set Team Santa Clara apart. They have built a prototype of a novel roof connection module system and are expanding on the ground-breaking bamboo construction techniques that helped SCU to 3rd place finishes in both the 2007 and 2009 competitions.

“Our goal is to have an all bamboo framing system for this entry,” said Mark Aschheim, chair and professor of civil engineering. “To enable rapid adoption, we are aiming for components that can be substituted for those used in regular light-frame wood construction. Our students and faculty have also designed and will be testing a new variety of bamboo floor joist, a prefabricated load-bearing wall panel, and various versions of shear walls.” In keeping with the spirit of the competition the team expects to use minimally processed bamboo in order to keep the embodied CO2 down and to maximize the benefits of the environmentally-friendly product.

“We’re excited to begin construction after the first of the year,” said Gallau. To learn more about the team, the house, and sponsorship opportunities, visit