Skip to main content
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Instagram
  • Linkedin
  • YouTube
  • Newsletter
  • Google+
A rendered model of the team's home for the 2023 Build Challenge.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Team Name: Illinois Solar Decathlon

Build Location: Rantoul, Illinois

This 1,510 ft2 home for a single parent and two children will help serve as a sustainable housing model for rural Illinois.

Project Summary

Illinois Solar Decathlon is an interdisciplinary registered student organization at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign seeking to lead innovation in design and construction to advance towards an environmentally sustainable future.

We are thrilled to present our latest project, RENU House. RENU House is a 1,510 square foot energy net-zero home. RENU represents the four guiding principles of our design and construction processes: Renewable, Economical, Nourishing, and Universal.

Design Philosophy

We believe that a truly sustainable future should incorporate societal needs as well as environmental needs, placing emphasis on mental, physical, social, and financial health. RENU House’s technological innovations minimize its effect on the environment through net-zero energy consumption, but the project also tackles a number of social issues on multiple levels. The project’s benefits can be examined in relation to national trends, the needs of the local community, and the wishes of the family that will one day call the house a home.

RENU House was designed to be universally adaptable. All materials and labor in the construction of RENU House were sourced from local suppliers and subcontractors in rural Illinois, implying that this home can be replicated in similar socioeconomic markets across the country. RENU House’s design specifically addresses a variety of growing needs in U.S. rural markets.

RENU House emphasizes accessibility for all abilities, maintaining ADA accessibility throughout the home (with the exception of one out of two bathrooms). We also prioritized low maintenance in every facet of the design: the ductless HVAC system requires less yearly maintenance than a traditional system by eliminating filtration, and using native, perennial vegetation in our landscaping requires very little work from the occupant.

The layout of the home can also accommodate a variety of living situations. The flexible hub space can be converted into a private living space, a private working space, or opened up to create a circular floor plan. A multigenerational household, a single parent family, or an independent working professional couple could all tailor the home to fit their specific needs.

And lastly, the energy benefits of the home are applicable in any community across the United States. Although it requires an initial investment, our solar array design is estimated to pay itself back in six years, reducing homeowner energy costs for years to follow.


    Market Analysis

    RENU House has been built in the Village of Rantoul, a town of roughly 12,000 people fifteen miles north of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 1993, the local Chanute Air Force Base, the primary economic driver in the town of Rantoul, closed down. This led to a mass exodus of residents, as the population decreased by half and approximately $100 million in commercial spending disappeared. A top priority of the local Rantoul Urban Planning Committee is to try and revitalize neighborhoods by replacing vacant and dilapidated properties with new, affordable, and sustainable housing. Illinois Solar Decathlon has partnered with the Rantoul Urban Planning Committee for the RENU House project, and we firmly believe our home’s design can help meet this goal.

    Illinois Solar Decathlon has partnered and worked closely with the Champaign County chapter of Habitat for Humanity to ensure the home will benefit a local family in need after the competition. Upon completion, the home will be donated through Habitat for Humanity to a single mother and intermittent wheelchair user, and her adult daughter who is pregnant with her first child. With the abundance of accessibility, low maintenance design considerations, and innovative family-centered plan, the soon-to-be trio will be comfortable and able to navigate the challenges of child development more easily than in a standard home. Overall, the RENU House will provide long-lasting stability and comfort to a family in need.


    Key Features:

    • Radiant space heating
    • Remote heat recovery ventilation
    • Electric vehicle (EV) charging
    • Grid-responsive energy management system with battery backup.