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Golden, Colorado
April 15–18, 2021
Photo of a home design model from a previous competition.

Design Challenge

Teams competing in the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge work for one or two academic semesters. Participants prepare creative solutions for real-world issues in the building industry.

Qualifying teams complete a design project and attend Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend, where they present their designs to a panel of industry expert jurors, compare their projects to those of other teams, learn from presentations by thought leaders and collegiate peers, and engage with a variety of organizations about energy careers. Winning teams are recognized at an Awards Banquet, and winning Project Presentations are published on the website. The competition and winners are promoted through a variety of media outreach efforts, which provide participants and their collegiate institutions an opportunity for national exposure.

Collegiate institutions that participate in the challenge are recognized as leaders who are producing career-ready professionals with cutting-edge skills. Industry partners who collaborate with teams gain national and local recognition and have the opportunity to interact with knowledgeable future design and construction professionals.


Complete details are available in the Design Challenge Rules. The 2021 Design Challenge was April 15–18, 2021, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

  • July 2020—Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Rules are released, and team applications open.
  • October 20, 2020—All Design Challenge participating teams must complete the team application. All teams with a complete team application are accepted to participate.
  • September 2020 to March 2021—Webinars and building science trainings are offered.
  • December 1, 2020 – Teams are encouraged to submit an optional 5-page Project Pitch.
  • February 16, 2021 – All teams must complete the Project Proposal and finalize their Division selection.
  • April 15–18, 2021—Finalist teams complete compete with presentations to industry leaders.