EEBA Recap of the Design Challenge

Students involved with the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge produce some amazing projects and prove why they are invaluable to the future of our industry.

EEBA Recap of the Design Challenge

Last weekend EEBA Executive Director, Nancy Bakeman, had the privilege of attending the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon Design Challenge in Golden, Colorado. Over 400 people with a wide variety of backgrounds were in attendance at what Bakeman says was an “energizing and inspiring” event. “These kids are brilliant, and it was such a cool experience to see,” says Bakeman.

Before the event even began, teams had to produce a 60+ page report outlining all the details of their project. The weekend itself was packed with events, tours of the National Renewable Energy Lab, presentations and some fun team challenges. On Saturday Bakeman listened to many of the amazing presentations and had a chance to talk with the students.                            

First place awards were handed out to the Design Challenge teams in six different categories on Sunday morning during breakfast. In addition, 11 teams in the Build Challenge were announced that are able to move forward with their project (the next phase of the Solar Decathlon) as they were awarded their funding. Then each first place Design Challenge team had to present their winning project to the full audience and the Grand Jurors - in just 10 minutes. The Grand Jurors then selected the overall Grand Winner - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Breakfast was followed by the Career Connections where over 20 companies, including EEBA, had tables set up for students to ask questions and network. Scholarships for October’s High Performance Home Summit in Denver will be awarded to the following winning teams:

  • Urban Single-Family: Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Suburban Single-Family: United States Military Academy at West Point (West Point, New York)
  • Mixed-Use Multifamily: State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse, New York) and Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
  • Attached Housing: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia)





At one point during the weekend, Bakeman recalls members of the audience being asked to raise their hand if they were over a certain age. As she looked around, she noticed, similar to many industry events, the number of hands in the air accompanied by graying hair. “The industry is getting older,” she says. “There is a big need for a younger generation to get into building science and keep pushing it even further.”

Bakeman says she is looking forward to developing the partnership between EEBA and the Solar Decathlon to get more students involved in building science and energy efficiency careers. She hopes to recruit more students for the training sessions EEBA holds across the country throughout the year, the High Performance Home Summit, and various development activities.


Next week, keep a lookout for another perspective of the Design Challenge from Thrive Home Builders’ Nathan Kahre - a former participant of the Solar Decathlon who has a great story for how he ended up at Thrive.

Photos courtesy NREL


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