An interdisciplinary team of students are building a super energy-efficient home for a national competition, and they need your help to be successful.
The University of Colorado Boulder Solar Decathlon team is taking part in a U.S. Department of Energy college competition to design and build an affordable, energy-efficient home.
“This contest is about bringing newer and more sustainable designs to industry,” said Wes McEvoy, a sophomore electrical engineering student and co-leader for the CU Boulder team.
The competition is full-scale. Students are not tasked with completing only paper diagrams or a model; they are building a house from the ground up, and one day it will become someone’s home.
The team has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and the City of Boulder to build the home as part of the Ponderosa affordable-housing revitalization project in North Boulder.
“Habitat has been generous enough to donate one of the lots to us,” said Kyle Biega, an architectural engineering master’s student and fellow team co-leader. “We’ll be taking a base home design and modifying it to get to net zero energy. Our goal is to really improve consumption and energy efficiency and make this a model home that could be replicated throughout the community.”
CU Boulder has ample experience in Solar Decathlon, with teams earning first place nationally three different times, including the 2021 competition. The 2021 home was in Fraser, CO and the team was working with existing property owners who were able to pay for much of the project.
This time around, fundraising is necessary.
“When you build a build a super-efficient house there can be a premium with the upfront costs,” Biega said. “But we want to show sustainable design can be affordable. All of our design decisions come back to ideas being repeatable and affordable. That’s our whole mission.”
To finesse their plans, the team, which is comprised of students from across engineering disciplines and environmental design, have split into five sub-groups: architecture, structural, electrical, HVAC and systems. They will submit formal construction documents in March and make a final presentation on the plans to the Solar Decathlon completion in April. Construction will start this summer.
“A lot of our emphasis is on envelope design in insulation and airtightness,” Biega said. “We’re utilizing components of the Passive House Standard, which goes above and beyond local code. We have free ways to cool the home from orientation and shading, and options for passive solar heating.”
The project will also incorporate smart technology and an app to allow the eventual homeowner to track energy usage in real-time.
The team sees the home as a way to showcase new technology to residents along the Front Range.
“We want to say, ‘Hey, look at all the things you can do in a home design to make it better for the environment.’ We’re looking to promote better, sustainable and more efficient ways to live,” Mcevoy said. “Money given to this project will be fed directly back into the community. It goes into building a very efficient and sustainable home for a family that needs affordable housing.”
If you are interested in helping out, the team is leading a crowdfunding campaign throughout the month of January and February. They are also interested in networking with professional engineers for guidance on the project. If you are interested in getting involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.