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DU Solar Decathlon Team Wins $25,000 to Construct a Net-Zero Energy Home

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University of Denver

Department of Energy Provides Grants to Fund Competition Projects

Announcement  •
University of Denver's solar decathlon team.

CampusCraft, a University of Denver team comprised of more than 20 undergraduate and graduate students from various academic disciplines, was awarded $25,000 to construct an energy-efficient home as part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon international design and construction competition. The Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition with 10 contests that challenge student teams to design and build highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. The Department of Energy provided grants to 11 semifinalist teams to help fund their competition projects’ construction costs. CampusCraft received the award during an event at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado earlier this month.

Led by faculty advisor Eric Holt, an assistant professor at the Daniels College of Business' Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, the CampusCraft team has worked since fall 2018 to plan and design a project to compete in the Solar Decathlon 2020 Local Build Challenge. The project focuses on retrofitting an existing home south of the DU campus, which sits within a FEMA 100-year floodplain, to be more energy efficient —net-zero, to be exact. This means the building will produce enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, helping to reduce the use of nonrenewable energy in the building sector. The team also developed preliminary designs for a net-zero accessory dwelling unit to be located on the same property as the retrofit house.

CampusCraft anticipates successfully developing practical residential solutions for net-zero energy housing in the Denver metropolitan area while simultaneously demonstrating practices for construction within the FEMA floodplain zone.

“This student competition is as real world as it gets,” Holt says. “The Solar Decathlon challenges students to find creative solutions to be net zero, while teaching them to operate in the real world of design, planning and construction.”

The team will now begin the ‘build phase’ of the project, where students will finalize designs, apply for permits and begin construction and retrofit activities. They will focus on creating construction industry partnerships to gain support for the project and collaboratively develop practices to move the industry forward. CampusCraft plans to incorporate design innovations that reduce the buildings’ negative impact on the environment and provide maximum comfort for the eventual occupants.

“I am excited to be a part of this competition because it gives me the opportunity to apply the learning from my academic program to a real-life situation that impacts our community,” says Daniela Gamundi, a senior in the Real Estate and the Built Environment program.

Participation in the Solar Decathlon contributes to students’ experiential learning and eventual career success. Since 2002, the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge has established a worldwide reputation as a successful educational program and workforce development opportunity that has positively affected more than 18,000 college students. DU and UC Berkeley placed third in the 2017-18 Solar Decathlon competition.

Students interested in participating in leadership positions or construction activities for the competition can attend information sessions, which will be held at the Daniels College of Business in the coming weeks.

Winners of the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge will be determined based on the combined scores of the 10 contests and will be recognized at the biennial competition event and public exhibit June 25-July 5, 2020, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

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