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View from inside one of the 2017 Solar Decathlon houses.

Build Challenge

Teams competing in the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge work during a two-year period to design and build their houses, culminating with the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge Event in Washington, D.C., in summer 2020. Participants design and build complete, functional houses to demonstrate creative solutions for real-world issues in the building industry. Teams will compete and exhibit their solutions before panels of industry expert jurors in Washington, D.C., as part of the 2020 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Select top-performing teams will also be invited to exhibit at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builder’s Show in 2021. See the teams for the 2020 Build Challenge.

Build Challenge teams will also have the opportunity to participate with other teams at the Solar Decathlon 2019 Design Challenge Weekend, learn from presentations by thought leaders and collegiate peers, and engage with a variety of organizations about energy careers. Through local and national exhibitions, teams are recognized publicly, and the winning houses are announced at the national showcase event in July 2020. 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 in cultivating career-ready, young 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.

Summary of Important Dates

Complete details are available in the Solar Decathlon Competition Guide. Please note the following key milestones for the 2020 Build Challenge:

  • July 31, 2018: The 2020 Build Challenge Rules released, and the team application available on the website.
  • December 10, 2018: Deadline for teams to complete their team application online. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) expects to accept up to six teams for each Division, 12 in total for the Build Challenge. Teams will be notified of their selection in December 2018.
  • February 19, 2019: Deadline for teams to complete the Schematic Design Summary and complete the building science training.
  • April 12–14, 2019: Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend: Participating teams present to industry leaders on the NREL main campus in Golden, Colorado. Jurors evaluate each team’s Design Development Documentation and presentation to determine whether teams will receive an approval-to-proceed to the next phase and receive the first prize distribution.
  • May/June 2020: Solar Decathlon Community Exhibition Month: Period during which competing teams exhibit their as-built houses to their local communities, offering tours of the house, hosting educational activities, and verifying functionality as part of the measured contest activities.
  • June 24–July 5, 2020: Solar Decathlon Build Challenge Event: Competing teams exhibit and compete at the Build Challenge Event, as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. National Showcase Division teams bring their complete, tourable house module, which will be toured by juries. Local Build Division teams bring their compelling exhibit and associated signage and present to juries at Organizer-coordinated venues in Washington, D.C.
  • February 2021: Team Showcase at National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builder’s Show: Select top teams may be invited to exhibit their designs, and for National Showcase teams—their tourable house module, at the NAHB International Builder’s Show to tens of thousands of professionals.


Solar Decathlon Build Challenge

Date: September 13, 2018
See the presentation slides, or watch the video below.