Solar Decathlon and Sustainable Reconstruction in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

From left to right: Briana Salmon, Joan Gibbons, Alani Aguerre, and Brenton Krieger (Michelle Margolies not pictured)

In just over a month, five of our Solar Decathlon team members will be taking their building and design skills to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. Their mission: rebuilding communities that were devastated by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck the Pacific coast in April. Joan Gibbons, Brenton Krieger, Michelle Margolies, Alani Aguerre, and Briana Salmon will work with Ecuadorian professionals in architecture, carpentry, and materials farming as well as local university students to rebuild homes in the coastal community.

When the earthquake hit Ecuador, hundreds of building collapsed, taking human lives and the livelihoods of local communities with them. The challenge for coastal Bahia de Caraquez soon became how to heal their people and rebuild their homes and communities. From the need to rebuild came Bahia Beach Construction, a startup committed to rebuilding and focused on sustainability. Bahia Beach Construction has been able to tap into a largely underused resource in Ecuador — Guadua bamboo. With bamboo farms close to the most affected regions and its durable strength, bamboo seems like to be the leading material for environmentally friendly building. It also is known for its ability to regulate humidity and temperature, which is incredibly important for a country named for its proximity to the Equator.

Our Solar Decathlon team members bring their knowledge of and passion for sustainable design and building to Ecuador, and in return they will be able to hone their knowledge and skills in construction. It is one thing to design a home and another to actually build one, and in Ecuador our team members will be able to see firsthand the transition from design to finished product!

The entire Berkeley Solar Decathlon team is excited to see our teammates and friends putting their knowledge to use in rebuilding Bahia de Caraquez. And, we cannot wait for them to bring their new skills back to the construction of our very own sustainable home!

April Updates

These past couple weeks have been extremely exciting for our Solar Decathlon team. Since our last update we have made several advances in our design due to our Designathon in late February, have been inspired by architects from Lowney Architects and LMS Architects who came to speak to us, and have been thrilled to announce that we will be holding a class for Solar Decathlon team for Fall 2017.

On February 20th, we held our first Designathon. At the Designathon members were divided into teams and then paired with two professional mentors to come up with a completely new design for our house. They were given five hours to design and then present their house to a panel of professionals for review and critique. This was extremely beneficial in discovering new ideas that we want to apply to our house. From this has spurred our new vision for our house. Thus far, we have designed a 3-5 story multi-family complex, made out of wood, that fits in the smallest infill lots in an urbanizing city. Through our designathon we further solidified a key feature: the “step” stacking technique. This will open up spacious deck areas and great views, adding an element of community and social sustainability. We believe this complements our overarching vision of a is simplicity; a simple home, a simple structure, and a simple shape that promotes communal living through shared spaces. such as laundry, mechanical facilities, and deck space.

In March we were thrilled to have two representatives from Lowney Architects and LMS Architects come and speak to us about sustainable design and modular building. We learned the difference between modular building (which is relocatable) and factory building (permanent modular construction). Since we are building a modular and stackable home this was extremely informational and helpful.

Finally, we are also proud to announce that we will be offering a crash course centered around our competition this coming fall! The primary objective of this course is to encourage interested students to learn more about Solar Decathlon through participating in our multidisciplinary design and build project. This class can be taken for units and will cover many of the topics that directly influence the design and construction of a Zero Net energy home. Students will also have the opportunity to gain practical knowledge by actively creating a sustainable and affordable multifamily housing solution for the city of Richmond.