2020 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Highlights Pioneering Housing Solutions
[caption id="attachment_18154" align="alignright" width="300"] Credit: 2019-2020 Penn State Solar Decathlon Team[/caption] This year's Solar Decathlon Design Challenge — a competition where collegiate teams design energy-efficient buildings while focusing on affordability, resilience and occupant health — operated a bit differently than previous years. Given guidance and precautions surrounding the coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decided to hold a virtual competition April 17-20. "Inspiring, invigorating and humbling — the organizers managed to maintain the integrity of the competition and executed this year's virtual event to perfection," noted NAHB Sustainability and Green Building subcommittee past chairman and member Ray Tonjes, a juror this year. Prior to the virtual event, jurors spent hours reviewing project reports and 25-minute video recordings that introduced each collegiate team's design. Forty-five teams representing 31 colleges competed for the grand prize, and for the first time, there were two winners: one for residential and one for commercial. Miami University (Ohio) was the residential grand winner for a community in Cincinnati called Peace Village. The design features a solar photovoltaic (PV) microgrid, bioswales to encourage biodiversity and absorb rainwater, other rainwater mitigation strategies to reduce flooding, and durable materials to resist high winds. The Miami University team partnered with a modular manufacturer to use modular components, such as a panelized building envelope system, to increase energy efficiency and help save on labor and construction costs. The modular design helped keep the project simple, easily transitioning between three- and four-bedroom units. Other features of Peace Village include:
- Intentional placement of windows to take advantage of westward winds and naturally ventilate units;
- Community gardens, murals and basketball courts, which were existing features on the land that were important to residents;
- A rent-to-own model to help residents who earn 50% or below the area median income; and
- Achieving goals of neighborhood cohesiveness, accessibility and inclusion, sustainability, prefabricated design and more.