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The Revolving Solar-Powered Home That Won Big at California’s First Tiny House Competition

Images of Santa Clara University's rEvolve House during the 2016 Tiny House Competition in Sacramento on October 13, 2016. When the contest is over, the 238-square-foot solar-powered home will go to Operation Freedom Paws (OFP), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization empowering military veterans and others with disabilities to restore their independence by teaming them up with a service dog. Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is hosting a Tiny House Competition modeled after the Solar Decathlon created by the U.S. Department of Energy. The purpose of the competition is to explore renewable energy, green building techniques and sustainable living while constructing net-zero energy houses. (Photo credit: Joanne H. Lee/Santa Clara University)

The mini-house movement is growing by the year, and now there are even big competitions for the best design. California’s first tiny house competition took place a few weeks ago and presented some amazing ideas. The grand prize of $10 000 was provided by big sponsors such as Riley’s Family of Fine Stores.

The competition was held on October 10th in Sacramento. The first place went to the Santa Clarita University, whose students created a 238-square foot structure which was incredible from a design and technology standpoint. Santa Clarita’s rEvolve House can track the sun to elevate solar gain and was designed in partnership with Operation Freedom Paws. The idea is to provide a low-cost housing for veterans with their own training dogs.

The self-sufficient house is powered by 8330-Watt Sunmodule solar panels which store energy in saltwater batteries. These batteries are Cradle-to-Cradle certified, while the Colossus solar tracking appliance boosts its absorption efficiency by nearly 30%. The tiny home is also off-the-grid, mobile and very comfortable. There’s a Murphy’s bed in the bedroom, and the full-size kitchen has a set of fold-out table and chairs. In the bathroom, there’s a dry-flush toilet that eliminates black water.

“We are very proud of our team of students who put two years of dedication, time, and energy into building this home,” Godfrey Mungal, Dean of the School of Engineering at Santa Clara University said. “The Santa Clara team can conquer the world now,” Tim Hight, associate professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s faculty advisor said. “They set a huge target for themselves and they exceeded their own expectations.”

The house is a mini green machine with planters on the outside and a spiral staircase that leads to a terrace on the rooftop. However, the most amazing part are the humanitarian intentions. As JJ Galvin, the leading student on the project said, “It’s unreal that I’m blessed enough to be here and have this team and support. Half the reason I came to Santa Clara was to work on projects like this.The tiny house provides the first step in the journey of empowering veterans to evolve their independence and is a safe haven for them to acclimate and begin training their dogs prior to returning to their respective homes,” he explains.

The competition asked teams to design and build net-zero tiny solar houses and the event was open to every college and university in California, with the idea of energy conservation, green building, energy efficiency and solar technology. The tiny homes were built on wheels and modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. All of the houses contain smart appliances, green building materials and techniques, renewable energy sources and small living designs. The criteria were broken down to architecture, energy efficiency, home life and communication. At the end of the competition, each team was allowed to do whatever they want with their house. Santa Clara donated their tiny house to Operation Freedom Paws, while other sold it to pay for school projects.

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