Sacramento State will participate in prestigious solar decathlon event

Ilian Cervantes

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Feb. 13 that Sacramento State will compete against 20 globally selected universities by building a 1,000 square-foot solar home.

“It is nice to get national recognition as one of the better engineering and construction management schools out there,” said junior construction management major Konstantine Paxinos. “It is a big deal to be up there with big schools.”

Students from construction management, business administration, communication studies and interior design will compete in the Solar Decathlon 2015. The single-family residential home will be judged on 10 categories including aesthetic appeal, mass market appeal and affordability.

The solar home needs to be self-sustainable meaning, building a net-zero home that uses no more energy than it produces, said Shelly Duff, interior design assistant professor.

“What we hope is that we are going to rewrite the way residential projects are built in the United States,” said Dave Huhn, senior mechanical engineer at Glumac, a sustainable engineering consulting firm for mechanical, electrical and plumbing services. “If (students) are on the cutting edge of that, their employment opportunities are endless.”

Choosing students for the two-year project varies by college. Construction management is selecting juniors and sophomores that will allow for continuity as the students graduate the following year, Huhn said.

Huhn, who will coach the team, said that aside from securing industry contacts and recognition, the students who participate in the Solar Decathlon 2015 will also gain leadership skills.

“It is a team building educational opportunity as well,” Huhn said. “They have to learn to mentor. (When) they go out into the real world, they are going to have to learn to teach others and delegate.”

While the construction management program will be taking student applications, the interior design program is picking students based on their final projects for Interior Design Studio III, Duff said.

The 21 students in the class will each construct the interior and exterior of the solar home using industry-approved programs like AutoCAD and Revit, Duff said. The projects will be submitted during finals week to be judged and only two will be selected to join the team. Their projects will be expanded for the fall 2015 competition in Irvine.

“It is a huge honor to be competing head-to-head with schools like Yale and Vanderbilt,” Duff said.

Although Sac State will be competing against prestigious universities, Paxinos said Sac State’s support and partners in the industry will give the team a leg up in the competition.

“We have strong industry support,” Paxinos said. “There are a lot of big construction companies based in Sac, and they are very supportive of the program.”

Sac State’s construction management program is a repeat champion at the annual Associated Schools of Construction competition held in Reno. Out of eight problems, the team took second place for the Electrical Problem early this February and first place for Concrete Solutions.

The Mechanical Problem was awarded second place nationally, and as one of its members,  Paxinos said he is going to apply for a position on the Solar Decathlon 2015 competition team.

“All of these competitions are great resume builders,” Paxinos said. “A lot of them are supported from the industry who donate money. They keep their eye out for the young men and women that are going to be entering the field, and they want to get first dibs for those they think would be a good fit for their company, or those they think they can mold.”

L.J. Savage recently transferred to Sac State specifically for the construction management program, and said he is also applying for a position on the team.

“Being able to take part in the building from ground-up and actually putting it to use is going to benefit anyone,” Savage said.