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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

The Solar Decathlon Build Challenge and Design Challenge encourage industry engagement to strengthen critical collaboration and technical skills in the next generation of buildings professionals.

Solar Decathlon Design Partners take industry engagement to the next level by leveraging the opportunity to harness student innovation while providing students with impactful, real-world design experience.

What is a Design Partner?

Design Partners are organizations that have a planned construction, major retrofit project, or new construction project in their building portfolio and would like to work with a collegiate team to develop a zero energy ready design for the project. Design Partners can work with 2022 Design Challenge and 2023 Build Challenge student teams.

What are the benefits for Design Partners?

Design Partners who partner with student teams receive a zero energy concept design with basic cost estimates for their building, allowing them to fully explore zero energy design alternatives. The 2022 Design Challenge deliverable is approximately equivalent to schematic design documents. The partnership with a 2023 Build Challenge team may extend to a complete set of construction drawings and construction specifications, or fully to construction and completion. The extent of this commitment is determined and directed by Design Partners and student teams.

Note that all designs are posted publicly following the competition. A representative from each Design Partner organization is invited to attend the Solar Decathlon Competition Event held each April at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, with students, faculty, and industry partners from around the world.

I am interested in becoming a Design Partner. How do I get involved?

Apply to become a Design Partner by completing the Project Proposal application form. Please see eligible building types and detailed requirements above for more guidance before completing the Project Proposal.

Project information will be posted on the Design Partners - Project Profiles webpage. Student teams interested in collaborating will contact your organization directly using the contact information provided through the form.

To Apply: Complete the Project Proposal application form.

Design Partner Expectations


Competition Timeline

Building Types

*Specific requirements can be found in the Rules for each Challenge



Design Challenge

October 2021 - April 2022

Residential, including Retrofit Housing, and Commercial

Up to 25 hours over the competition period for design programming and charrettes, iterative schematics, and feedback

Zero energy design option for a building in your portfolio

Build Challenge

October 2021 - April 2023

Residential, including Retrofit Housing, one unit of Multifamily Housing

Varies depending on scope and development into full construction project; Minimum commitment aligns with Design Challenge.

Design Partners can choose to receive a design from a team, or see the project fully to construction and completion.

I am a student team. Where do I find Design Partner opportunities?

A limited number of Design Partner opportunities are posted on the Design Partners - Project Profiles webpage. Student teams contact the Design Partner directly using the contact information provided through the form. Design Partner opportunities are not limited to those posted on the Solar Decathlon website; teams are also encouraged to identify Design Partners on their own through local engagement, leveraging collegiate institution partnerships, or other means.