Monterey County Business Council Recognizes Rancho Cielo

From left: County Supervisor Luis Alejo, District 1; Rancho Cielo Board Member Pete Scudder, Zeke Rodriguez (Rancho Cielo grad); Jesus Camacho (Rancho Cielo grad); Rancho Cielo CEO Chris Devers.

On Friday, April 26, 2024, the Monterey County Business Council recognized Rancho Cielo at their 28th Annual Gala & Economic Development Awards for building an incredible, award-winning home that embodies our commitment to innovation and eco-conscious practices. The house, built by our students, prioritizes consumer health and environmental sustainability.

The Scoop
Rancho Cielo’s programs are not just about growth. They are about making a real difference in our community. Our supportive ecosystem nurtures our students’ development, from vocational training to mental health support, life skills, and job readiness.
Moreover, Rancho Cielo provides platforms—the Drummond Culinary Academy’s Friday Night Dinners represent one instance—for students to gain hands-on real experience working in and with the broader community and their respective industries. One of the most notable instances is the school’s Construction & Sustainable Design Academy students’ participation in the first-ever Orange County Sustainability Decathlon (OCSD) in 2023.

In a remarkable display of talent and innovation, Rancho Cielo’s Construction & Sustainable Design Academy students participated in the prestigious Orange County Sustainability Decathlon (OCSD) in 2023. They were the sole high school and vocational program involved, competing against 16 top engineering teams, many from the University of California and California State University schools, and others from around the world.

The challenge: design and build a model net-zero home that addresses climate change and California’s housing needs. Additionally, teams were asked to ensure the house was market-ready and present elements to educate the community about climate change.
Thanks to a grant from the City of Salinas through the Salinas City Safety Division and the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program (CalVIP), Rancho Cielo had seed money and was off to the races. With Judge Phillips at the helm, an OCSD Advisory Committee was formed, as did partnerships with Hayward Lumber and Scudder Roofing & Solar. EcoLogic Architects took the lead in designing the next-gen healthy modular home prototype dubbed Nexus_01, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the project.
Rancho Cielo students, instructors and collaborators worked tirelessly for over a year, culminating in a month-long stay in Orange County, where Nexus_01 was staged and displayed. More than 10,000 people, including the competition judges, toured the home and asked our students questions.

The 847-square-foot Nexus_01 is the epitome of healthy living. Every detail was meticulously crafted, from its spacious porch to the modern interior layout that boasts adaptable, convertible spaces. The harmonious living experience blends comfort, high-end style and environmental responsibility.

The competition judges concurred that Nexus_01 embodies the OCSD mission “to motivate a new generation of leaders to design, develop, demonstrate and deploy innovative housing solutions that will accelerate California’s continuing progress in sustainability,” as well as a commitment to “promoting a culture of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) that values and celebrates the contributions of every student, employee and stakeholder involved in the initiative.”

Nexus_01 exceeded expectations, racking up six first-place awards (Architecture & Interior Design, Energy Efficiency, Sustainability & Resilience, Lighting & Appliances, Health & Comfort, and Innovation), two second-place awards (Engineering & Construction and Communications & Marketing), making Rancho Cielo First Place overall.

Now, Nexus_01 proudly sits on the Rancho Cielo campus, a tangible reminder of what can be achieved when a community unites behind its youth. “The whole community came in and supported us,” Judge Phillips says aptly.

What’s Next?
In addition to the construction program’s in-depth and rigorous student training, the OCSD inspired Rancho Cielo’s new focus on sustainable housing design and building next-generation healthy homes. Future construction students will follow in their previous cohorts’ footsteps, gaining valuable practical experience and complex construction skills.

They will also learn something most do not know at their age: how to build a sustainable, healthy, energy-efficient home. That will give them a distinct edge as they enter a workforce that needs to be equipped to build differently, considering our climate crisis and the housing needs in California.