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California State University, Sacramento, Builds Reflect Home To Showcase Its City

Monday, March 16, 2015

By Ernie Tucker

Sacramento is nicknamed the City of Trees, so it made sense for the California State University, Sacramento, team to showcase nature in its U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 project. The team’s Reflect Home does just that by embracing the city’s sense of expansive greenery.

The team examined elements throughout the city to come up with a contemporary design that combines indoor and outdoor living spaces.

“We wanted to reflect Sacramento not only in the house’s architecture but its openness, including the California Great Room, which transitions to the back yard,” says decathlete Rosni Pann, the team’s project executive. “Everything about the home really shows what Sacramento is about and how we approach things. We’re warm and inviting. That’s Sacramento.”

Graphic of a modern indoor living area that opens to the outside.

Reflect Home’s California Great Room features contemporary design that combines indoor and outdoor living spaces. (Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon 2015 California State University, Sacramento, team)

While incorporating features throughout the Reflect Home to make it both ultra-efficient and affordable, the team’s focus was on ensuring a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors.

“We really wanted to bring the outside in. It does this in an elegant way,” Pann says.

Upon entering, visitors can see not only the spacious living room and kitchen but also the back yard, which is separated from the interior by accordion doors.

“In Sacramento, we’re fortunate to have the weather so that we can use that outdoor space most of the year. We’re a community that loves to be outside, to have family and friends over. But you can also have privacy by closing the doors,” says Pann.

Graphic of a modern house with solar panels on the roof.

The California State University, Sacramento, Reflect Home showcases nature and the Sacramento community’s love of the outdoors. (Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon 2015 California State University, Sacramento, team)

The team plans to begin construction in mid-March on a campus lot. Work could last several months—and then the team hopes to disassemble the house and repeat the process a second time to improve efficiency.

“We don’t want our first time assembling it to be at the competition,” Pann says.

Watching this unfold will also serve as a sort of living laboratory on sustainable construction.

“Because it’s on campus, all the students—and residents of Sacramento—will know what the Solar Decathlon is all about,” Pann says. “We’re encouraging everyone to come by and people in the community to mentor us.”

Learning to integrate a number of disciplines, ranging from marketing to interior design and construction, has been a fascinating process.

“We have so many departments working on this. That’s been one of the most interesting things about this project,” Pann says. “It’s fun to see how all these people are coming together, and everybody wants to bring something.”

The team encountered some headwinds early on in fundraising. But now, with more tangible signs of progress, such as the start of construction, buzz is building. In addition, the strong reputation of the school’s construction management program has helped the decathletes gain support.

Pann, who will graduate this May, has already begun working full-time as a project engineer for a Sacramento building company, which is a job she landed as the result of previous internships in construction.

Now, as they head toward construction, she thinks ahead about seeing the project take shape in Irvine, California, and expects to feel “intense joy, relief, and pride. When we complete this house, it will be amazing.”

And even when it’s part of the Southern California landscape, the Reflect Home will still represent the spirit of Sacramento, always welcoming the outdoors and sharing its warmth for guests.

Ernie Tucker is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team.

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