Architecture students hammer solar house

School News

Architecture students hammer solar house

April 24, 2013

Construction of USC’s Solar Decathlon house, a 900-square-foot net-zero dwelling titled fluxHome, began on April 12 at a celebration on the South Lawn behind Watt Hall. The innovative, energy-efficient structure will be built there for a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored competition to be held in October. USC is one of only 20 universities worldwide selected to join the event.


At the kickoff, a podium and chairs were set up by the chain-link fence delineating the building site. The dwelling’s steel components will be erected shortly, and construction will continue through the summer. This fall, the home will be dismantled and reassembled at the Solar Decathlon competition site at the Great Park in Orange County.


Participating in the ceremony were USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett, USC School of Architecture Dean Qingyun Ma, USC Associate Senior Vice President of Community Engagement Craig Keys, and Solar Decathlon faculty advisers Alice Kimm and Gary Paige, along with members of the Spirit of Troy marching band and the interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students working on the project.


Also present were School of Architecture alumni, members of the school’s Board of Councilors, faculty, staff and students.


Garrett, senior vice president for academic affairs, praised the project “as perhaps the most interdisciplinary project on campus this year.”


The School of Architecture is taking the lead on fluxHome, but there is significant involvement by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the USC Marshall School of Business, the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the USC Rossier School of Education and several other departments in schools across the university.


Members of Solar Decathlon Team USC (USC Photo/Monica Nouwens)


Garrett said the involvement of multiple disciplines will benefit both the project and the student builders.


“Participants are opening new channels of thought and modes of creative expression by engaging with each other and developing resiliency when their first ideas — the ones that are the most familiar — are made better by integrating with the ideas of others,” she said.


She pointed out that the pressing problem of sustainable living is global in nature. In what many are calling the “Century of Cities,” designing sustainable urban dwellings is particularly important, she said.


Kimm said the values and attitudes reflected in fluxHome are more important than its small size.

“The 900-square-foot house can be the power to change how we live,” she said.

She noted that the Solar Decathlon Club that has formed around this project is growing quickly and now has an intramural softball team.


“We hope the club will continue beyond the competition,” she continued. “With this project, ideas are literally turned into form, space and structure. It can provoke campus-wide discussions on architecture, technology, nature and sustainability.”


She welcomed everybody on campus to come “swing a hammer.”


Stephen Collins, a junior in electrical engineering and a project engineer on the team, said working on the Solar Decathlon “has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done at USC.” He said the team is hoping to rebuild fluxHome on campus after the competition and have it serve as a demonstration house that can be toured by students in local communities.


Keys told the audience that fluxHome’s final move will be somewhere in the University Park neighborhood where it will become a home for a family.


By Allison Engel

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Students have constructed the metal frame for fluxHome, and it was available for viewing during the LA Festival of Books