In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainable design solutions. As engineering students graduate and enter their professional careers, they will be entrusted with approaching engineering challenges with sustainability as a core consideration. Students at the College of Engineering & Computer Science recently completed an exceptional hands-on experience that will help prepare them for this responsibility.
Through the end of September and beginning of October 2023, a team of civil engineering students from ECS assembled their sustainable model home display in the Sustainability Village at the Orange County Fair & Event Center. As part of the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon, they joined 13 other teams in designing and constructing model structures that could help address climate change and California’s housing needs.
The Orange County Sustainability Decathlon was launched this year to motivate and empower California’s best and brightest to lead the state’s goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2045.
“Through this project, students are actively immersing themselves in the California Building Code and current construction practices,” says Phoolendra Mishra, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “They are diligently seeking ways to enhance buildings for improved energy efficiency and water conservation, all while maintaining a focus on cost-effective construction practices.”
Making Sustainability Financially Feasible
The Cal State Fullerton team had contributions from students across various disciplines, including members from the College of Natural Science & Mathematics, the College of Business & Economics, and the College of the Arts. The construction phase of the project was handled by undergraduate civil engineering students.
The team pre-made sections of their house structure on campus that they then assembled at the Sustainability Village. The competition ended on October 15. Portions of the house will be brought to campus and showcased to Cal State Fullerton students who will help the college form a team for the next competition.
“In this project, our students are advancing energy efficiency through the implementation of improved construction techniques. Their multifaceted approach addresses key aspects of construction, encompassing insulation, sealing, HVAC system optimization, and the incorporation of passive systems,” Mishra says. “Their overarching objective is to create buildings that excel in conserving energy without inflating construction costs, making sustainability a financially feasible option.”
“This process not only offers them a unique and dynamic learning experience but also equips them with the skills to think creatively and innovatively.”
Phoolendra Mishra, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Mishra says the ECS team’s exhibit also served as a showcase for ingenious solutions, including an automated leak detection system, an auto waste-sorter, a plant keeper, and water reuse systems, highlighting sustainable practices that minimize water wastage and contribute to a more environmentally responsible future.
“Students actively formulated inventive solutions to various challenges, rigorously tested their concepts, and then refined their ideas,” Mishra says. “This process not only offers them a unique and dynamic learning experience but also equips them with the skills to think creatively and innovatively. It encourages them to break free from conventional paradigms and explore novel approaches to problem-solving, fostering a mindset that embraces ‘out of the box’ thinking.”