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Five Questions for a Former Decathlete: Susan Renaud

Monday, September 25, 2017

What’s your name and what Solar Decathlon team did you support?
I am Susan (Meissner) Renaud. I worked with the University of Virginia team on the 2002 competition.

Virginia’s 2002 home won rave reviews from the architecture judges for innovation and design.

What do you do for work now?
I work for the City and County of Denver’s Environmental Health Department. My role is in marketing and community engagement for residential and commercial sustainability programs. One large part of my job pertains specifically to promoting residential energy efficiency and solar.

How did your Solar Decathlon experience contribute to your career?
Though I didn’t go on to practice architecture, I have renovated some houses and followed the sustainability thread throughout my career. The Solar Decathlon laid a foundation for those interests and for a lot of the work that I do today for the City of Denver. Through the Decathlon, I gained an appreciation for renewable energy and in graduate school for urban planning. I fell in love with the idea of initiating change on the local level. Today, I have the pleasure of combining both of those things in my role, promoting residential energy efficiency and renewable energy options to Denver’s constituents. This year at the Solar Decathlon in Denver, I’ll be speaking about both of these things on behalf of the City. It’s fun to be able to participate in the event again from a different perspective.

Susan and her decathletes-in-training take on a home renovation project.

What was your most memorable moment from your Solar Decathlon experience?
I loved my experience with the Solar Decathlon. My last studio before graduation was given the task of designing UVA’s entry for the first Solar Decathlon (2002). My studio and a partner group of engineering students worked together on the schematic design. Our professor maintained our design intent with the students working on the project after we graduated. The groups that detailed and built the house thereafter not only respected our design, they also developed and improved upon it. I remember arriving in Washington, D.C., for the final day of the Decathlon to see the house and to witness the judging. It was the first time that I’d seen anything constructed that I’d helped to design and it was beautiful; they’d done an incredible job. We ended up winning the design competition and coming in second place overall after CU Boulder. There was no bad blood, though — much after the fact, I ended up moving to Boulder and marrying an architecture instructor from CU!

Do you have any words of wisdom for the Solar Decathlon 2017 teams?
The Solar Decathlon was such an enriching experience and was formative in my life in ways that I never could have expected. Enjoy the camaraderie of the competition and all of the unexpected ways that this experience will manifest in the future. Good luck!

Tune into #SolarDecathlon on Facebook to see more former decathletes answer these same five questions.

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