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Sean Copeland is #SDLivingtheDream:
Revolutionizing Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Through Design!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Meet 2017-2018 Design Challenge alumnus Sean Copeland. From Penn State to Solar Decathlon, this two-time SD veteran has always worked with a passion for building design and environmental preservation. With his current position at Arup, he is able to intersect the two through working on carbon-free building construction in Massachusetts. Learn more about how Sean puts his skills to the test toward the green-building industry.


Name: Sean Copeland

Year participated in Solar Decathlon: 2017 and 2018

University team: Penn State University (2017 — Full Circle, 2018 — Ripple)

Current organization / employer: Arup

Current role: Graduate Sustainability Consultant


How did participation in the Solar Decathlon affect the trajectory of your career?

The Solar Decathlon provided me with the opportunity to learn about building science, mechanical engineering, and project management among many other things. Serving as one of the project leaders in 2018, I gained experience managing an interdisciplinary project team. The sustainability field requires interdisciplinary design to connect members of the design and construction teams. As a sustainability consultant, it is important to understand all aspects of the project from mechanical engineering to construction waste management or low-emitting materials for indoor air quality. The Solar Decathlon demonstrated that focusing on interdisciplinary design leads to the best outcomes for a project.

The award-winning single-family home rendering designed by Sean and his team. Sean served as the project leader for the competition.


Describe a work outcome, building project or other achievement you are most proud of and how (if) it relates to your experience with Solar Decathlon. 

At Arup, we are currently working with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to analyze and develop pathways to a carbon-free Massachusetts by 2050. Our participation includes modeling the building sector of the state for the existing building stock and future pathways. Future pathways include the adoption of new policies and the implementation of energy conservation measures (ECMs) to aid in decarbonizing the building sector. The state’s building stock includes many outdated constructions and inefficient HVAC systems, so my experience working on single-family (2018) and multifamily (2017) residential Solar Decathlon projects aided in the modeling exercises and identifying potential areas for improvement in these typologies.


Sean and his team received first place in the Suburban Single Family category for the 2018 Design Challenge, formerly known as Race to Zero. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

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