How to Get Great Zero-Energy Home Designs and Develop a Future Workforce

Filed in Sustainability & Green Building by on July 11, 2019 0 Comments

Photo Credit: John DeLa Rosa/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Funded through the U.S. Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge gives college student teams the opportunity to design highly efficient and innovative zero-energy buildings, from single family to multifamily, office buildings and more. DOE is expanding the challenge with a new pilot program that encourages industry partners to get involved with the student competition. The Solar Decathlon Design Partners Pilot provides student teams the opportunity to work with experienced designers and builders, who will receive a zero-energy design product for their portfolio in return.

If you are new to green building or you are thinking of exploring zero-energy design for your next new home or home renovation, this could be the perfect opportunity to put thought into action. Through the pilot program, Design Partners help college student teams by providing them with real-world design requirements for a zero-energy building. Design Partners then receive a concept design and basic construction cost information from the student teams.

The Design Partners will commit approximately 20 to 30 hours of consultation in person or remotely to provide a Solar Decathlon student team with design requirements and design feedback. Design Partners may also be invited to participate in the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, April 17–19, 2020.

Exposing students to boots-on-the-ground design work can be valuable workforce development by creating a pipeline for potential future hires, particularly with ongoing labor shortages. Such partnerships are also an opportunity for greater innovation. Virginia Tech students were able to partner with Southland Log Homes for the 2019 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge and took home the top prize for their ecologic treeHAUS project.

“It was great working with the team at Virginia Tech,” said Ken Sekley, president and CEO of Southland Log Homes and a member of NAHB’s Log and Timber Homes Council. “Collaborations like the one between Southland and Virginia Tech are important for fostering innovation in home building and home design, particularly in the area of sustainability, and enticing more young professionals toward careers in the building industry.”

Designers and builders interested in becoming Design Partners should return this form to Holly Carr at holly.carr@ee.doe.gov by Aug. 1.

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