Background of the OCSD

Building A Better Future

The Need for Sustainability​

Imagining the Future of California

California has reached a tipping point and the need to mitigate climate change is clear. Wildfires ravage our communities, droughts impact food production and water supplies, rising sea levels erode coastlines, and shifting weather patterns threaten many of California’s natural wonders. We need resilient, sustainable housing. In addition, with the rising cost of living in California, we need more affordable homes.

Richard King, OCSD23 competition director, founded the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2002. Under his leadership, U.S. DOE Solar Decathlon competitions were held biannually in Washington, DC, from 2002 to 2011. After attending one of those events, Chapman University Associate Professor Fred Smoller worked on a proposal to bring the Solar Decathlon to California. Competitions were held at the Orange County Great Park in 2013 and 2015.

Since then, Fred Smoller and Mike Moodian, a longtime academic and community leader, have focused on developing a new competition for the State of California. A substantial grant from the California Legislature, championed by California State Senator Dave Min, provides the financial resources for the inaugural Orange County Sustainability Decathlon.

It happened! King, Smoller, and Moodian joined forces to organize a new collegiate competition and sustainability exposition to be held in October 2023. This exciting event aims to offer innovative solutions for today’s most challenging environmental and affordable housing problems.


Fred Smoller
Fred Smoller (President and CEO) has been working to get the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon up and running for several years. Fred is an Associate Professor of Political Science and has been on the Chapman faculty since 1983. He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University. Smoller was instrumental in bringing the U.S. Solar Decathlon to Orange County in 2013 and 2015. Named one of Orange County’s 2021 Most Influential by the OC Register, Fred is also the author of the book From Kleptocracy to Democracy: How Citizens Can Take Back Local Government (2018). Now, his dream of a decathlon that focuses on green, affordable, sustainable housing is coming true as well.
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Richard King
Richard King (Competition Director) has led award-winning competitions across Europe, China, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and many other parts of the world for more than three decades. In 2002, he created the first Solar Decathlon for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which attracted 100,000 visitors. Richard served as Director of six more solar decathlon competitions, and over a 20-year period inspired more than 20,000 participating students and 300 professors from 128 decathlon teams at 170 universities across the country. Having stepped away from the DOE, King is truly happy to be working on a competition that focuses on sustainability and the housing needs of future generations.
Michael A. Moodian
Michael A. (Mike) Moodian (Chief Communications Officer) is a longtime Orange County-based researcher and community leader. Mike wrote, coproduced, and codirected the documentary Coastal Crisis, which explores the causes and effects of coastal erosion on California’s beach communities. He has received three separate appointments by two different California governors to serve on a state ethics commission. Mike earned a doctorate degree in education from Pepperdine University as well as a master’s degree in communications from California State University, Fullerton. He was named (along with Fred Smoller) as one of Orange County’s 2021 Most Influential by the OC Register. A longstanding champion of the planet, Mike is rising to the needs of the community and looks forward to tomorrow's innovations.
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Kristina Lamb
Lamb (Program Manager) is an alum of the U.S Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in 2015 with Team Orange County. She received her bachelor's degree from Chapman University in communication studies and was awarded Bill Womack’s Most Inspirational Award by Dr. Lisa Sparks. Her experience in the sustainability industry was further enriched during her time with Tesla, where she contributed to regional pilot programs that expanded to national campaigns for marketing, operations, and sales. Kristina has a true passion for sustainability and is looking forward to bringing her visions for a better future to life in the coming years.
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Mike Wassmer
Mike Wassmer (Competition Manager) is a licensed professional engineer who designs, implements, and manages technical aspects of collegiate home design competitions. During his eight years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, Mike was the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Competition Manager. He also designed and administered the world’s first decentralized, collegiate zero-energy home design competition for The Research Council of Oman. With his extensive experience installing research-grade energy monitoring systems, Mike is right at home contributing to the success and prestige of the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon.
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Melissa DiGennaro King
Dr. Melissa King (Jury Coordinator) is a professional consultant who has been director and content expert at private companies and non-profit organizations. She has developed online programs and multimedia products for Pre-K thru grade 12 and taught graduate courses at the University of Virginia, George Mason University, and Kaplan University. She has also served as teacher, mentor, and curriculum specialist in public schools. Melissa is an accomplished writer, published author, and Certified Master Gardener with expertise in horticulture education. She has played an active role in U.S. and international Solar Decathlon competitions, including Innovation Contest Jury Member for SD Latin America.
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Event Overview

The California Legislature adopted the bold and commendable goal of being 100% reliant on renewable energy by 2045. To achieve this, we must harness the creative energy of students and rich resources within the academic community.

The Orange County Sustainability Decathlon is an exciting new competition that promises to motivate and empower California’s best and brightest to lead the state’s transition to 100% renewable energy.

OCSD23 challenges multidisciplinary teams of students, researchers, architects, engineers, builders, entrepreneurs, and innovators to design and build replicable housing units that aim to accelerate sustainable development throughout the state. Participating teams will need to blend affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal renewable energy production, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Everyone will win when these award-winning model homes are readily replicated throughout the state and beyond.

Become a Sponsor

Your contributions are tax-deductible. OCSD23 is a Charitable Ventures project.