For some students it was the first time using a power tool, for others, the house build was a personal one, one for a conscientious future.
For eight days this month, over a dozen teams of college students competed in the inaugural Orange County Sustainability Decathlon taking place at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa.
Modeled after the U.S. Department of Solar Energy’s Solar Decathlon, the event encourages environmentally friendly living in an attempt to curb climate change. The competition is focused on education efforts for both adults and children with guided tours, a speaker series, and a job fair.
Although there is no prize fund, students receive $100,000 in funding for their projects.
The juried categories contestants are competing in are Sustainability & Resilience, Architecture & Interior Design, Engineering & Construction, Communications & Marketing, Market Potential, and Innovation.
Students from the various competing schools went through an extensive effort to prepare for their builds.
Editor’s note: This is an occasional series where Voice of OC works with local community photographers to offer residents a first-hand look at the local sites and scenes of Orange County.
“Since I’m the project manager, you have to make sure you’re organizing everything because you know your team relies on you,” explains Sydney Nguyen, 21, a Cal Poly Pomona student.
“It’s really important to have those things (be) organized because if you have something overlapping – for example like building the temporary foundation, which is used to support the ground, overlapping with going inside the house to build – then it contradicts each other,” adds Nguyen, “It’s very important, especially in construction, to plan especially when you’re on an accelerated schedule.”
For second year architecture student Georgie Ampudia, 20, of Orange Coast College, transporting the house itself required a massive amount of preparation for her team.
“Our home is split into four different sections so each section was craned to a truck and brought over here so we brought it here and mentally and physically prepared for that so that was pretty scary,” Ampudia says.
“And then also preparing for the build time, we had a very limited build time when we were on site so we were behind schedule for construction but we actually managed to do it which was great. In the last three weeks, the house came together really really quickly,” Ampudia elaborates.
The decathlon is a very important event for the students, who are excited to show that sustainable housing is a crucial avenue in combating climate change.
For many participants, this is their first time planning and executing a build on this scale.
Nguyen shares her concern about the stigma surrounding students with no previous experience who are learning how to do these sustainable builds. However, she is hopeful that by seeing the success of the students at the decathlon people in the industry will be further motivated to make changes towards sustainability.
The event director, Kristina Lamb, shares the students’ excitement over getting to see their visions realized.
“You are seeing people, kids, students actually that never had a tool in their hand and a week later they are building a house. It’s a sense of accomplishment, and worth and value that they’d won’t truly get in a classroom,” Lamb says.
Lamb is interested in the future for the world that these homes express. She believes that the participants in the decathlon are problem solvers who will make a difference in a multitude of fields, from building and construction to marketing and public relations.
For the marketing and communications aspect of the competition, participants were asked to think about the business potential of creating a community based on their builds.
While giving a tour of Cal Poly Pomona’s “Roots” build, Madelyn Bickel, 22, a Civil Engineering major and one of the home’s project managers, explained the significance of their community model.
“What we wanted it to be was two rows of houses encasing an organic garden, a play area, and a community center. That goes with what our logo is, it has three leaves representing the words play, grow, and share… It’s part of our market potential for the competition specifically,” Bickel shares.
The students participating in the OCSD are making strides for the future of sustainable living.
“I think it’s important to participate because if you are given the opportunity to take the ethical and moral route, why wouldn’t you?” says Ampudia.
For the sake of our being and for the sake of future generations, we are only one human race, that’s what I think on a larger scale.”