Santa Clara University’s Radiant House Bursting With Clean Tech

Ah the college life. Parties, and late night papers, and expanding your mind in those handful of classes that really opened your eyes. And usually in that order. Well, for a group of students from Santa Clara University, looking back on their four years of college will yield much more satisfying results.

They’re the SCU 2013 Solar Decathlon Team, and after two years of planning, designing, and building, they’re poised to truck their “Radiant House” all the way to Irvine, California for assessment by a national panel of judges. Win or lose, however, Radiant House deserves a moment of your time. It’s packed full of unique clean tech innovations that help the home conserve–and generate–renewable energy.

SCU Radiant House

Image via SCU

The fact that Radiant House is solar-powered should go without saying (it’s the Solar Decathlon, remember?). In fact, the house markst the debut of the new SunPlanter solar panel racking system that reduces cost and materials by integrating the roof structure into the solar panel racking system. But the creative minds of the SCU design team weren’t content to let the sun do all of the work.

In the process of building the house, Santa Clara students invented:

  • An upcycled solar thermal container made from a Napa Valley wine barrel—its melts during day, solidifies at night, generating power needed.
  • A customized smartphone app that’s tied to an intuitive control system which received input from sensors located throughout the house. The app allows the homeowner to remotely shut off lights and close windows, and if you ask it to crank up the A/C, it will suggest that you open a window or close the shades first.

This is the third time that teams from SCU have competed in the Solar Decathlon. In both previous years, the SCU team earned third-place awards, but this time they’re going big.

“In 2007 the team focus was on engineering, in 2009, it was on design; this year, we’re shooting for the best of both worlds,” explained Jake Gallau, the student project manager for Radiant House, in a press release. “Our solar house will be about 20 percent bigger than the last one and will be built for about two-thirds of the cost.”

“In designing this year’s house, we made a conscious decision to innovate,” Gallau continued. “We looked at technology that we liked and tried to find ways to improve it to meet our needs. We didn’t want to just use existing bells and whistles; our goal was to build a modern home that people would actually want to live in.”

Learn more about the house at

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog


  • Reply September 11, 2013

    Keith Jones

    Are these new generations of homes being built as entire “housing systems”? Using ground source heat pumps not only for heating and cooling the air we live in and breath, but providing chill water to refrigerators and freezers? Hot water ect. It seems that we end up cooling air just to dump more heat and humidity into it with refrigerators, dishwashers, and laundry equipment.

  • Reply September 12, 2013

    Albert Hartman

    Santa Clara U leaves the house up on campus so anyone can go inside and see it. I’d love to live in that single story dwelling, it reminds me so much of similar Eichler homes that inspired so many architects. Everything is bright and convenient. All the modern conveniences close at hand. And it tangibly connects the inhabitants to the world outside – visually and energetically. People need to join the outside world again, then they’ll start caring about pollution, climate change, healthy foods, active lifestyles. Today’s dwellings isolate us too much.

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