Students build energy-efficient house


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It is only 800 square feet, but what sets the house apart is energy efficiency.

It represents over a year's worth of design development and six months of construction by a team of 100 students from Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts.

"Really cool thing about this house is you can control it almost entirely with your iPhone if you have one," one student pointed out.

They have dubbed it Refract House, named for the bending of light.

The structure has plenty of windows to provide light and passive heating. Its rooftop solar panels generate excess power to sell back to the power grid. And hot water is transformed into cool air.

"Almost every part of this house is designed to be innovative; it's designed to make living green both perform, but more so than anything else, to make sure that it's comfortable," Preet Anand said.

The two schools form Team California, and they will compete against 19 others for top honors in the U.S. Department of Energy's /*Solar Decathlon*/ competition.

Dirt-stained hands reflect the sweat equity that went into the project as designers and engineers learned about collaboration.

"We would propose something with the form, with the shape, with integrating systems, and then the engineers would come back, 'What about this? There's this piece of technology that we can achieve those similar things,'" Kyle Belcher said.

Applied Materials helped to underwrite the $1.4 million project. CEO Mike Splinter says the students will shape the future of solar energy.

"I think this next generation is going to be about energy and environment, and it's very exciting for us just to see the innovation, the ideas, the drive and the effort these kids are putting in," Splinter said.

The house will be reconstructed on the National Mall in Washington DC in time for the international competition on October 8. Team California will be up against some really tough schools, including MIT and Carnegie Mellon. Two years ago, they beat both of those schools.

LINK: Solar Decathlon

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