Mizzou team powering housing project with renewable energy


For the few months, project manager Daniel Davis and five fellow engineers, also known as the Sunsational Engineering Group, have been hard at work designing a low-income housing project partnered with Columbia Housing Authority. Teaming up with local architecture firm, Wallace Architects, the group has begun to develop a residential and commercial facility. Photo courtesy of Daniel Davis.

A group of soon-to-be MU engineering graduates have spent the semester hard at work on their capstone project, but it isn’t one that will end come their December graduation. Rather, it will live on.

For the few months, project manager Daniel Davis and five fellow engineers, also known as the Sunsational Engineering Group, have been hard at work designing a low-income housing project in partnership with the Columbia Housing Authority. Teaming up with local architecture firm, Wallace Architects, the group has begun to develop a residential and commercial facility.

“For our capstone, we typically work with an industry partner or some kind of qualified organization,” Davis said. “We’re working with the architectural studies department, and it must qualify for the U.S. Department of Energy’s solar decathlon.”

Their design, which includes multi-family units, row houses and a grocery store, must also be eligible for the competition. That means the building must be highly efficient and powered by renewable energy. According to the website, the U.S. Department of Energy is looking for teams that “best blend architectural and engineering excellence  with innovation, market potential, building efficiency and smart energy production.”

“We started the project the third week of school,” Davis continued. “Professor Michael Goldschmidt came and kind of pitched the project to our whole team. Later, we told Schmidt, ‘Hey, we’re on board. We want to work with your team of architectural studies students on coming up with this design.’ And at first, the progress was getting the very preliminary, very general and basic design from a local architecture group.”

The plan is to convert the pre-existing site into a low-income housing unit that will base rent on 30-percent adjusted household income. The architectural design includes three floors for the multi-family building, with 34 one-bedroom and five two-bedroom units. The attached row housing will be one floor of eight one-bedroom units. The grounds will also have a playground, two large parking lots and a community garden.

“There’s a lot left before the end of the semester,” Davis said. “We’ve got like 30 or 40 items on our list right now. We’ve prioritized and assigned out tasks, but basically we’re working on design outside of architecture as much as possible.”

For the group, that means their focus is on the site, civil and electrical design.

“It’s like, how does the storm water drain? How are we going to do an arrogation design for the grass to be watered, and how do we get water to the building? How do we get electricity to the building?” he said.

While Davis and his team have spent the last few months spearheading the project, they’ll have to trust a new team of engineers to take it over come December.

“Our team is doing a front loading of work, but we’ll eventually hand it off to seniors graduating in May, and they will complete the project with the architects,” he said.

While, the project won’t be submitted until next semester to compete in the Solar Decathlon, Davis and his team have remained dedicated to creating a design that not only uses renewable energy, but also environmentally friendly in other aspects.

“It’s all about mindful consideration of using the least amount of resources as possible when using things that need clean energy,” he said.



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