The luminOCity home, designed and built by TeamMADE, a group of students, faculty and staff from UCI and Orange Coast College, placed second overall in the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 17, 2023 — TeamMADE, a sustainable home design and construction crew with student members from the University of California, Irvine and Orange Coast College, placed second overall in the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon, which was held Oct. 5-15 at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

Edged out slightly by the first place-winning Rancho Cielo Construction Academy, based in Salinas, Calif., TeamMADE (Modular Affordable Dwellings for the Environment) had its name show up in several of the award categories, including first place in engineering & construction; first place in market potential; second place in sustainability & resilience; third place in architecture & interior design; third place in communications & marketing; and third place in innovation.

“We were already excited to see our luminOCity house become a reality, but to place so well in the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon is definitely the icing on the cake,” said TeamMADE project manager Jennifer Wilkens, director of special projects in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at UCI. “We were especially proud to place first in engineering & construction and in market potential, which reassures us that we were on the right track with our ideas and concepts.”

TeamMADE was one of 14 teams competing in the O.C. Sustainability Decathlon. Many participants were California-based, but other teams included members from China and the United Kingdom.

The LUCID home, designed and built by a team of students in UCI’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was unique among Orange County Sustainability Decathlon entries due to its concrete construction. The LUCID team tied for first place in the energy efficiency performance rating and came in fourth in seven other categories. Steve Zylius / UCI

Team LUCID, which included graduate and undergraduate students in UCI’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, showcased an innovative home based on a concrete structure. Under the guidance of Ayman Mosallam, UCI professor of civil & environmental engineering, that project tied with other teams for first place in the energy efficiency performance rating category. The team also placed fourth in architecture and interior design, lights and appliances, communications and marketing, water use conservation, health and comfort and innovation.

“The Orange County Sustainability Decathlon provided the opportunity for our graduate and undergraduate civil and environmental engineering students to realize the importance of sustainability from every angle,” said Mosallam. “Highlights of the project included the involvement of our team members in the selection of innovative sustainable home building materials, the application of structural engineering design and the opportunity of interacting with experts in architectural, construction, mechanical, electrical and plumbing professions.” 

For TeamMADE’s first-place showing in engineering & construction, the O.C. Sustainability Decathlon jury recognized the 750 square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home’s modular design as one eligible to be built as an accessory dwelling unit throughout California. Features highlighted include an affordable and easy-to-assemble steel structural system; effective building insulation; south wall exterior shading; indoor air quality maintenance through air filtration and energy recovery ventilators; a heat pump water heater; smart controls for appliances, lighting and receptacles; occupancy sensors for lighting control; and an expandable modular battery system. The team was also recognized for its high-quality engineering documentation.

For its first-place award in the market potential category, the luminOCity house was recognized for a “flexible design and ease of assembly” that makes the home “applicable to a very wide market.” The jurors said that the fact that the home can be field constructed (not trucked to the site) will save costs on project patterned this way. TeamMADE was lauded for developing deep partnerships among supply chain and service providers and for ideas such as selling component parts separately, such as a bike shed.

“We are thrilled to have received this recognition,” said Mark Walter, UCI professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who served as a faculty advisor and technical manager with TeamMADE. “It is what we set out to do: To form successful partnerships and student learning experiences that address housing-related sustainability and resilience issues facing not just California but also the world.”

Walter added, “There are multiple human, social, economic and environmental factors associated with sustainability and resilience. The future of housing, especially in California, must consider these factors. We have shown a prototype that does just that, and we are very happy that the O.C. Sustainability Decathlon has recognized the hard work of our students, advisors and partners with multiple awards. We hope that there will be substantial support to now implement what we have developed.”

Wilkens said that in addition to the experience of designing and building a marketable sustainable home, TeamMADE members benefited in other ways.

UCI’s TeamMADE took home trophies signifying their second-place overall finish in the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon. The team had a strong showing in several categories including engineering & construction, market potential, sustainability & resilience, architecture & interior design, communications & marketing and innovation. Natalie Tso / UCI

“The team bonded on the construction site over the summer, but we all got even closer going through the challenging competition schedule together and making our house the home we envisioned it to be,” she said. “Seeing the students be rewarded for their hard work and accepting awards in front of everyone on stage was priceless and I hope they will cherish those special memories. I am so proud of them. They will go out and do great things.”

TeamMADE members plan for their completed structure to be donated to Homeless Intervention Services-OC in Placentia, Calif., to provide a safe home to four young men overcoming trauma and homelessness.

“I have been incredibly impressed and inspired by the TeamMADE project; it has provided our students with the opportunity to showcase their passion and creativity,” said Magnus Egerstedt, UCI dean of engineering. “And I have been particularly moved by how the end product is so much more than just a house – it is a house with a story and a purpose. It shows how we can achieve affordable and sustainable housing at scale.”

UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for the university. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The Henry Samueli School of Engineering plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit

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