A team of students from Weber State University’s building design & construction program has been selected as one of 11 international teams to compete in the 2020 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a collegiate competition that challenges students to design and construct highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy.
“Weber State has been making a name for itself as the Wasatch Front leader in sustainable design for residential construction,” said Jeremy Farner, WSU design engineering technology associate professor. “That’s our goal, and participation in Solar Decathlon gets us one step closer.”
The competition includes six teams from the United States and four international teams from Canada, Chile, the Netherlands and South Africa.
Weber State’s team leader, Heidi Ouzts is a bachelor of integrated studies major, who is combining building design and construction with interior design in preparation to pursue a master’s degree in architecture. The competition will be her first experience with designing a net-zero building. In addition to participating in the design, she will be responsible for ensuring the project stays on track.
“I’m really excited to be a part of the competition,” Ouzts said. “It is the first opportunity for most of us in the program to design a building. We get to be innovative and research new products that relate to sustainable building design.”
The year-and-a-half-long competition includes two parts: a design challenge and a build challenge. This semester, the Weber State team will focus on designing a duplex and triplex to be built in Salt Lake City. The homes will be net-zero, meaning they produce as much energy as they consume.
At the end of the semester, the team will travel to the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, for the Design Challenge Weekend. There they will present their designs to a panel of judges who will provide feedback and suggestions. Winning teams will be recognized at an awards banquet.
Following the Design Challenge Weekend, the team will take summer, fall and spring semesters to construct the homes and create a presentation for the Build Challenge Event in Washington, D.C., in July 2020. There teams will exhibit rendering and models of their projects before panels of industry experts.
Weber State’s team will partner with Redfish Builders, who built the first net-zero community in Salt Lake City, to build the homes. Redfish Builders will cover most of the labor and construction costs. After completion, the units will be sold for under $300,000 each, which Redfish Builders hopes will prove that a net-zero home does not have to be too expensive.
“Green building is really important right now,” Ouzts said. “Doing something like this as a university shows we are leading the way into green building and sustainable design. Weber is training its students to be leaders in green building design.”