This project is designed to develop smart infrastructure for affordable urban and rural housing communities. The project is a collaboration among UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced and Cabrillo Community College, focused on the Monterey Bay and Central Valley regions. Smart cities, grids and infrastructures are seen as a means of conserving resources and using them more efficiently. But this "smart" revolution bypasses many households in lower-income urban and rural areas. A Tiny Row House (TRH) is two-story, modular structure of 500-750 square feet, designed to be built in groups of four to six structures that incorporate a menu of resources-conserving construction, sustainable materials, shared utilities and renewable energy microgrids, monitored by smart sensors. Each individual smart infrastructure system will monitor and manage individual energy, water and resource use and internal environment, and together, the performance of the entire group. This project falls within Technology Readiness Level 7 as "demonstration of an actual system prototype in an operational environment." It fits into the "Connected Communities" initiative in that it will "broaden access and public participation in technology" and the "Sustainable Infrastructures" initiative in that it incorporates integrated sensors, advanced controls for water and energy systems, and data management. This project involves faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students from all three institutions playing a role in design, development and construction of systems and structures.
A solution to a societal challenge: California faces a growing affordable housing crisis. As real estate and rental prices rise across the state, due to gentrification and the tech boom, low and middle-income families are being pushed out of cities, far from their places of employment, into sprawling resource-intensive and energy-inefficient suburbs. In rural areas of the Central Valley, agricultural workers face a similar dynamic and dilemma. Many of the newly-homeless do not qualify for such low-income housing as is available and for those who do, waiting lists are lengthy and dwellings of poor quality.