At the South Lawn behind Watt Hall on July 25, one could find college students teaching high school students as 70 ninth-grade math students — members of USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) — toured the Solar Decathlon home under construction on the University Park campus.
USC’s entry in the Solar Decathlon competition, a flexible, modular, net-zero single-family structure called fluxHome, was designed by USC students and is more than halfway through construction. On the day of the visit, sliding glass doors were installed and ventilation ductwork was in process.
When complete, the home will be dismantled and trucked to Great Park in Orange County, Calif., where it will be judged in October against homes built by 19 other teams from universities around the world. After the competition, fluxHome will return to the USC campus to be used as an educational tool on environmentally sensitive housing. Eventually it will be donated to a local family, which will require dismantling and rebuilding in the University Park neighborhood.
Headed by the USC School of Architecture, the multidisciplinary team of students building the structure asked the ninth-graders to don hard hats and safety glasses for the tour. Justin Kang MArch ’13 acted as tour guide, pointing out the unique features of the home, including its flexible floor plan, space for garden walls and energy-efficient mechanical systems. The high school students were impressed by the “smart” abilities of the structure, especially its large, retractable skylight that closes automatically if it senses rain.
In addition to touring the home, the NAI students visited the School of Architecture’s woodshop, where scale models of projects are built. They were also given a design project of their own to work on, that of conceptualizing and drawing innovative neighborhood parks.
“One of the greatest things about our Solar Decathlon project is that it resonates with our entire global community — not just architects and engineers and sustainability gurus, but with anyone who’s ever lived in a house or dwelling, which really means just about everyone,” said Alice Kimm, School of Architecture associate professor and faculty co-director of the project.
“Specifically, fluxHome is a house that employs cutting-edge technology, materials and equipment to reach net-zero-energy,” she continued. “In addition, it is a house that celebrates our Southern California style of living — which is all about inside-outside relationships, enjoyment of our great climate and tradition of communal living, and a relaxed and flexible lifestyle.”