Student Designers Recognized at 2024 Solar Decathlon

Sustainability and Green Building

The annual Solar Decathlon Competition was held April 19-21 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. 

Students representing 37 collegiate institutions competed in the Design Challenge. After working for one to two semesters to design innovative and high-performance buildings that address current issues relating to climate change, affordability and environmental justice, these student design teams have the opportunity to present their ideas to expert jurors and network with industry professionals.

Heather Laminack of Ferrier Custom Homes — an NAHB member and former chair of the Sustainability and Green Building Subcommittee — attended the Solar Decathlon and served as a Design Challenge juror.

“While the 10 contests are the same, the approach and solutions the students presented varied greatly,” said Laminack. “A theme was that they were looking to not only create a zero-energy home, but to offer it as part of a broader social solution. We saw floating homes in Peru, infill homes aimed at first-time home buyers in Georgia, an affordable housing concept in South Africa, fire-resistant homes in Australia and British Columbia. These challenges are complex, and the students were resolute in their determination to find a better way.”

Winning teams are recognized with awards, and the grand winner was the University of Arizona, who competed in the Attached Housing Division. The team designed Harvest Mesa: 24 eco-friendly rowhouses that blend communal and private. The concept prioritized both the culture of the Hopi Tribe and modern innovation to offer energy-efficient, affordable housing.

NAHB has been a sponsor of the decathlon since 2004 and nearly every year since its inception.

“The entire event is brimming with excitement and passion,” said Laminack. “Students and faculty have invested countless hours of heart and hard work into their projects, and they are so proud to share their vision and strategy. There is a genuine curiosity the participants have — always looking to find ways to do build better, to serve more, all with less resources. That passion is infectious and an honor to be a part of.”

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