Cassidy Goldman and the rest of her class at Cosumnes Oaks High School spent hours during their junior year watching construction workers build a small two-bedroom house on their campus in Elk Grove. They watched crews erect a solar panel that pivots toward the sun, build framing that allows for extra insulation and install photovoltaic cells on the roof to help heat water.
On Wednesday, the seniors got their first look inside rHouse – or resource house. The seniors in Tim McDougal’s Design and Implementation class milled about, opening cabinets made from wheat stalks and discussing recycled countertops, low-flow faucets, the hybrid solar and tankless water heater and peering up at the solar tubes that provide light in the hall.
“It’s cool,” said Goldman, as she looked around the kitchen filled with Energy Star-certified appliances. “It’s more hands-on and you get to see the ways things are implemented.”
Goldman said she thinks it’s important that everyone learn about energy conservation. “You can be saving the world by saving energy,” she said.
No one lives in rHouse, which has a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry closet and a garage. Instead, the house is a living laboratory and classroom for students in the school’s Architectural Design and Engineering Academy. The living room, complete with an interactive smart board and rows of blue student chairs, acts as the classroom.
“Having a place where students study energy efficiency is important,” said Bill Heinicke, the director of planning and facilities for Elk Grove Unified School District. “Home energy efficiency is a growing market sector.”
The house will help students learn about things like solar water heating, geothermal heating and cooling, and energy and water efficiency – all features of the 1,344-square-foot house. Those features are expected to change as new technologies are developed, according to the program’s website. The garage is already being used by students converting the engine of a yellow 1973 Datsun 240 Z from internal combustion to electric.
The schoolhouse may be the first of its kind. The district has applied for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design) for Homes Platinum Certification. If approved, it will be the first residence with this certification to be built on a California campus, according to district officials.
The house will soon become a a field trip destination for local elementary students. Cosumnes Oaks High students will build models and develop presentations to give younger students lessons about each of the home’s features, McDougal said.
A $100,400 grant from Lowe’s Charitable & Educational Foundation helped kick-start the project, which ultimately cost $930,000, Heinicke said. State grants paid half of the cost and the Elk Grove Unified School District and Lowe’s grant made up the difference. Donors contributed architectural and construction services, as well as flooring, paint and lighting.
The home was required to adhere to residential, LEED and state standards for classrooms, driving up its cost, Heinicke said. District officials also had to extend sewer lines and make other alterations to accommodate the house on the site.
Cosumnes Oaks students designed the house and did research to make it as energy efficient as possible, McDougal said. They then turned their plans over to a team of architects and designers who volunteered their time to the project.
There are more projects to come. A greenhouse, fencing and benches are planned, and the yard will be used for student projects, including an outdoor solar oven.
The Architectural Design & Engineering Academy is one of two academies at the high school. Academies link high school course work to career field and higher education goals. The ADE academy teaches students to link learning from math, English and science with career technical education classes, according to the program’s website. The pathway is designed for students interested in the areas of architecture, construction and engineering.