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Building Science Education Series

The Solar Decathlon Building Science Education series is designed to educate students and working professionals on building science principles that are paramount to the successful design of high-performance, energy-efficient buildings. Instructional content is presented in modules, covering specific topics. Altogether, this series aims to educate viewers on:

  • Where/how energy is used in buildings
  • How to define zero energy buildings
  • How to apply the fundamentals of thermodynamics to building envelope design
  • How to explain the science of how/why buildings use energy
  • How to apply this knowledge to design comfortable energy efficient buildings.

Download the Learning Objectives to see more details about each module.

Students and working professionals can use this educational information at no cost to complement academic curriculum and continuing education activities.

For Solar Decathlon participants to receive credit, the training must be completed on Canvas. A link to the training can be accessed once the participants have registered on the Submission Site. Credit cannot be tracked if the Building Science Education modules are viewed from this webpage.

Module 0: Introduction

Dr. Paul Torcellini provides an introduction and welcome to the Solar Decathlon Building Science Education Series. (1 video - 3 minutes total)

Module 1: Buildings and Energy

The fundamental physics of power and energy are described, and we discuss how and where buildings use energy. (6 videos - 75 minutes total)

Module 2: Zero Energy Buildings

Zero energy buildings, as well as the various terminology that is used to define them, are introduced and discussed. (7 videos - 70 minutes total)

Module 3: Building Envelopes

Thermodynamics and the laws of heat transfer are discussed, and then we apply these concepts to buildings to show how, where, and why heat flows through walls. (16 videos - 162 minutes total)

Module 4: HVAC Systems

Beginning with a discussion of various efficiency metrics, the presenter explains why and how to provide heating, ventilation, and air conditioning to buildings. (10 videos - 110 minutes total)

Module 5: Lighting

An introduction to lighting technologies and a discussion of the history, relevant terms, and practical applications of lighting. (5 videos - 50 minutes total)

Module 6: Plug and Process Loads

Plug, process, and other miscellaneous loads in a building are discussed, and we explain why they are an important part of the design problem. (3 videos - 31 minutes total)

Module 7: Embodied Environmental Impact

Learn about the embodied environmental impacts of buildings over their life cycle, from raw material extraction to operation to deconstruction or demolition. (2 videos - 20 minutes total)

Module 8: Renewable Energy and Zero Energy Buildings

Learn the basics of renewable energy technologies like photovoltaics, wind, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass and why it is important to align building loads with renewable energy profiles. (6 videos - 79 minutes total)

Module 9: Building Energy Retrofits

Building energy retrofits are introduced, along with the relevant principles, factors, and material choices that can help inform a successful retrofit. (4 videos – 56 minutes)

Additional/Optional Content

Supplemental information on a variety of topics, from zero energy case studies to energy modeling, is provided. (10 videos - 7 hours total)

Student-Led Construction and Fundraising (For Build Challenge)

Guidance for Solar Decathlon Build Challenge participants is provided. (4 videos - 60 minutes total)

Contact for any questions or feedback related to the Solar Decathlon Building Science Series.