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Sneak Peek of Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Team Progress

Thursday, February 11, 2021

We recently announced that the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® will virtually host its rescheduled 2020 Build Challenge and 2021 Design Challenge competition events from Thursday, April 15, to Sunday, April 18, 2021. With just a few more weeks before hundreds of college students compete in the Solar Decathlon’s 10 Contests, the competition organizers would like to highlight some of the truly amazing progress being made by our Build Challenge teams, who are completing their local, solar-powered home builds against all odds.

It’s clear that these teams are bringing a new level of commitment and determination to this—dare we say, unprecedented—Solar Decathlon event. Before we show you where they stand, please mark your calendar to join us for the virtual event featuring dynamic team presentations, interactive sessions, and networking opportunities with these next-gen green building professionals.

AmeriCorps to the Rescue

A photo of three people standing in a framed house

The Net Positive Studio by Kansas State integrates prefabrication building technology, net-zero energy performance, and affordability. Photo from Kansas State Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Team

The Kansas State University team has worked closely with their partners to make construction progress while attending school remotely through the fall semester. Kansas State leveraged AmeriCorps volunteers to help construct their Net Positive Studio. When complete, this Solar Decathlon entry will become home to a low-income family in St. John, Kansas, through the Stafford County Economic Development organization. In a burst of recent activity, small groups of students are working to install prefabricated interior walls on the inside of the home to finish the job.


The University of Illinois team successfully pivoted to on-site construction for their solar-powered house following the closure of the factory that was fabricating their home modules offsite. After months of COVID-related construction delays, Illinois is well on their way to completing their ADAPTHAUS and demonstrating a flexible, affordable home concept for young adults.

A photo of a house without its siding installed.

The University of Illinois Solar Decathlon ADAPTHAUS team is building a prefabricated, adaptable house that focuses on changing lifestyles. Photo from University of Illinois Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Team

Like a Phoenix

Team Chile from Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María in Valparaíso, Chile, was able to break ground and build their foundation after months of uncertainty and delays in materials due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This team’s tenacity is paying off in a big way, as they raise the walls of Casa FENIX 2.0, which will provide a beautiful, resilient shelter to a family who lost their home in the December 2019 wildfire in Valparaíso.

A photo of a framed house, without a roof installed.

The local government is considering using Casa FENIX 2.0 as a prototype for the construction of over 150 additional homes for those affected by the wildfire. Photo from Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Team

DIYers Demonstrate Buildability

The University of Colorado at Boulder team is pulling out all the stops to complete their home in time for competition measurements this spring. Because only one student at a time can work on the house, the home’s future owners and family are also regularly contributing sweat equity to keep construction on schedule.

A photo of a completed home.

Mountain communities in Colorado face short building seasons, contractor shortages, and the need for affordable homes for permanent residents and seasonal workers. Photo from the University of Colorado Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Team

The Apparition of an Oasis

A photo of several workers inside of a construction site

In the end, Mojave Bloom will not be used as a house, but its ultimate location at the Las Vegas Healing Garden fits with the team’s overall intention: helping each other heal. Photo from the University of Nevada Las Vegas Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Team

The University of Nevada Las Vegas team has also made substantial progress, with finish work underway on both the interior and the exterior. Their home, Mojave Bloom, is designed to offer military veterans an oasis where they can enjoy a comfortable and self-sufficient lifestyle insulated from both the bustling downtown of Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert’s harsh environment. Once construction is complete, Mojave Bloom will travel across town to the Las Vegas Healing Garden, a site is dedicated to memorializing the 58 victims of the October 1, 2017, mass shooting in Las Vegas.

The Finishing Touches

The University of Denver’s renovation of a 1950s home has progressed to interior work, with solar installation complete and insulation added to all the walls. Their CampusCraft project not only brings this home into the modern age, it also provides a FEMA-compliant template for floodplain homeowners who want to discover budget-conscious options available when updating their existing infrastructure.

A photo of a completed house with a person cheering on the roof.

CampusCraft takes a cost-effective approach to transforming a 1950s home into the modern age while following Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for homes zoned in a floodplain. Photo from Alexandria Williams of the University of Denver Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Team

9 Teams, 10 Contests

All nine Build Challenge teams have shown exemplary resilience and positivity throughout this very exceptional year. Three homes are already complete, or nearly complete, from the Netherlands, Weber State, and Waterloo teams. The Solar Decathlon organizers applaud the tenacity and goodwill of these incredible students as they take their 2020 Build Challenge homes to the finish line…coming up on April 15, 2021!



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