Farmworker Housing Assessment for the 2014 UC Davis Solar Decathlon Team: Social and Spatial Considerations

Photo by the Oregon Department of Agriculture


In the fall of 2015, a team of students from UC Davis competed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s national Solar Decathlon Challenge. The challenge pitted twenty teams from colleges and universities across the United States and Europe to build a home that outperformed the other entries on ten different performance measures as well as comfort and livability. The UC Davis entry, called “M-Power,” was conceived as a modular housing solution that sought to address issues of energy efficiency while simultaneously meeting the needs of migrant farmworkers, an underserved group in California and the U.S. in general. The project planned by UC Davis therefore sought to advance not only worker health and dignity, but also California’s leadership in zero-net construction and reflective of its Zero- Net Energy Action plan, which targets all new residential construction to be zero-net energy (ZNE) by the year 2020. In order to design a home that could improve the quality of life for migrant farmworkers, it was important to understand the social demographics of the farmworker population as well as the range of conditions under which the proposed home would be occupied and utilized. The following report therefore outlines the demographic profile of farmworkers in California and the United States, noting the distinct housing needs of unaccompanied workers and farmworkers living with their families. Based on an extensive literature review and interviews with advocates, government regulators, and researchers, we articulated a number of design considerations for the Solar Decathlon team.

Kelsey D. Meagher
Kelsey D. Meagher
UX Researcher, Mighty Networks