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Students are gathered around a man in a suit who is speaking to them in front of a building at the 2019 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge in Colorado.

Solar Decathlon Design Partners Pilot


What: The Solar Decathlon Design Challenge is a collegiate competition that challenges student teams to design highly efficient and innovative zero energy buildings. Design Partners work directly with one of our student teams to develop a zero energy design for a new or existing building in their portfolio.

Design Partner Commitment: 20 to 30 hours of consultation in person or remotely to provide a Solar Decathlon student team with design requirements and design feedback.

Benefits: Design Partners receive a zero energy concept design and basic cost estimate for their building (the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge deliverable is approximately equivalent to schematic design documents). NOTE: all designs are posted publically following the competition.

Eligible Building Types: Office Building, Elementary School, Mixed-Use Multifamily, Attached Housing, Suburban Single-Family, Urban Single-Family.

Detailed Requirements by Building Type:

Proposed projects should meet the following requirements for each division:

Suburban Single-Family (SSF)
The parameters for the Suburban Single-Family (SSF) Division of the Design Challenge follow:

  1. Building Size: 1,000–3,000 square feet (ft2) (93–279 square meters [m2])
  2. Lot Size: At least 4,000 ft2 (372 m2)

Urban Single-Family (USF)
The parameters for the Urban Single-Family (USF) Division of the Design Challenge follow:

  1. Building Size: 300–2,500 ft2 (56–232 m2)
  2. Lot Size: Up to 5,000 ft2 (465 m2)

Attached Housing (AH)
The parameters for the Attached Housing (AH) Division of the Design Challenge follow:

  1. Row homes or flats, 2–12 dwelling units, up to three stories above grade
  2. Building Size: 500–2,500 ft2 (46–232 m2) per dwelling unit
  3. Lot Size: Up to 3,000 ft2 (279 m2) per dwelling unit

Mixed-Use Multifamily (MM)
The parameters for the Mixed-Use Multifamily (MM) Division of the Design Challenge are below. An MM is defined as a blend of residential and commercial building area.

  1. Minimum of eight dwelling units, 3–5 stories above grade
  2. Building Size: 350–2,000 ft2 (33–186 m2) per dwelling unit
  3. Lot Size: No minimum or maximum
  4. Dwelling units meet or exceed the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements (Rev. 06)
  5. At least 80% of the building must be used for multifamily dwelling units

Elementary School (ES)
The parameters for the Elementary School (ES) Division of the Design Challenge are below. An ES is defined as a complete educational facility for grades kindergarten through fifth, and it includes permanent provisions for a cafeteria; gym; offices; classrooms; and other support functions, such as mechanical spaces, circulation, and restrooms.

  1. Occupancy: 300–600 students, equally distributed in grades kindergarten through fifth
  2. Students per classroom: 20–30
  3. Lot Size: 15 acres (60,703 m2) maximum
  4. In addition to the classrooms, the following spaces must be included:
    1. Teacher work area (or lounge)
    2. Office/administration area
    3. Gym/recreation area
    4. Music room
    5. Art room
    6. Library/media center
    7. Cafeteria, which could be combined with the gym/recreation area, if desired
    8. Kitchen/service area, which could be used for light food preparation without cooking or ventilation requirements, if desired.

Office Building (OB)
The parameters for the Office Building (OB) Division of the Design Challenge are below. An OB is defined as a complete commercial facility with full fit and finish for a defined client(s), including support functions such as mechanical and electrical spaces, circulation, vertical transportation, and restrooms.

  1. Building Size: 30,000–80,000 ft2 (2,787–7,432 m2) comprising 2–5 stories
  2. 250–350 gross ft2 (23–33 m2) per person
  3. Lot Size: Up to three acres (12,141 m2)
  4. In addition to the office area, the following spaces must be included:
    1. Lobby
    2. Conference rooms
    3. Copy/print facilities and mail sorting
    4. Loading dock and associated janitorial, trash, and recycling services
    5. Break rooms with kitchenettes.

To Apply: Email a completed application form, to Holly Jamesen Carr (holly.carr@ee.doe.gov).