Santa Clara University’s rEvolve House Wins Inaugural SMUD Tiny House Competition

rEvolve House

Santa Clara University’s rEvolve House team won the inaugural SMUD Tiny House Competition in Sacramento on Oct. 15. Eight other California college teams also competed to design and build a net-zero-energy use home 400 square feet or less.

“We are very proud of our team of students who put two years of dedication, time, and energy into building this home,” said Godfrey Mungal, Dean of the School of Engineering at Santa Clara University.

SMUD tiny house competitionThe other teams that competed in the competition were University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Chico; California State University, Fresno; Cosumnes River College; College of the Sequoias; Laney College; Sacramento State University; and San Jose City College.

Teams were judged in four main categories: architecture, energy, communication and home life. Santa Clara University won two of the four main categories, energy and communication. Teams were also judged on 20 subcategories with SCU winning six: day lighting, integrated lighting, interior design, best kitchen, best program and best tour.

“The Santa Clara team can conquer the world now,” said Tim Hight, associate professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s faculty advisor. “They set a huge target for themselves and they exceeded their own expectations.”

SCU’s rEvolve House is a 238-square-foot tiny home that rotates. The house is set on a trailer connected to a COLOSSUN solar tracking ring that allows the entire house to revolve as the sun moves across the sky, improving the home’s solar efficiency by 30 percent. The home also features a living room that converts to a bedroom with a Murphy bed that can be pulled down at night. A full-sized kitchen incorporates a seating area with a fold-out table, and a 35-square-foot wet bathroom with a dry-flush toilet that eliminates the use of a blackwater system completes the package. The walls are constructed with structural insulated panels, making the home stronger and more energy efficient than a traditional stick-framed home.

“I’m on cloud nine,” said JJ Galvin, the student team lead on the project. “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 rEvolve House also features an accessible roof deck that provides an expanded seating area for six. In order to support an off-grid lifestyle, the house is powered entirely by eight 330-watt Sunmodule solar panels. The house stores its energy using saltwater batteries, the only batteries in the world to be Cradle to Cradle certified.

Teams took two years to work on their homes, using time to research and develop a design to meet all standards of the competition. Construction on the rEvolve house began in June 2016.

The house will be donated to Operation Freedom Paws, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching veterans and others with disabilities to train their own service dogs, and was designed with its final destination in mind.

The doorways, showers and appliances are all accessible from a wheelchair. The bed unfolds from the wall, providing plenty of living space and an open, airy atmosphere is designed for clients suffering from PTSD. Surfaces are tough enough to withstand the rigors of pet ownership while being easily cleaned. There is a vacuum built into the wall to collect dog hair and a drawer with dog bowls that emerges from the wall.

“I think that’s the coolest part,” said George Giannos, student construction lead. “Our house has meaning and it’s going to make someone’s life better.”

1 Comment

  • Robert Webster says:

    Nice project, but a few comments. In this and other articles about the house, the words rotate and revolve seem to be used interchangeably. This house, and the earth, rotate about their axis. The earth revolves around the sun. The article says that the rotation improves the solar efficiency by about 30%. Actually, the efficiency of the solar panels stays the same, but the rotation possibly increases the electrical output by about 30%. But the obvious question here is how much of the increased electrical output is used in order to rotate the house 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Finally, if the house changed the tilt of its solar panels as it rotates, so that the panels were always perpendicular to the sun, that would also improve the electrical output. But again, nice job.

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