DOE: DOE Announces 21st Annual Solar Decathlon Winners

Monday, April 24, 2023

Ball State University, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and The Cooper Union Named 2023 Build and Design Challenge Winners

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the winners of the 21st annual Solar Decathlon®, DOE’s longest-running student competition. The annual collegiate contest challenges the next generation of building professionals to design and construct high-performance, low-carbon buildings powered by renewable energy, while promoting student innovation, STEM education, and workforce development opportunities in the buildings industry. Ball State University, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art won the top honors at this year’s competition and were announced at the Solar Decathlon Competition Event at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado yesterday.  

“As we work to build America’s clean energy future and implement President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda, we need dedicated leaders who are ready to undertake any challenge before them with pride and passion,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk, who met with competitors on Friday, April 21. “I was proud to meet so many inspiring students and faculty this past weekend at the Solar Decathlon, each of whom demonstrated the ingenuity and enthusiasm critical to ensuring the benefits of clean energy will be spread far and wide.” 

Visit the Virtual Village for an interactive tour of this year’s cutting-edge buildings. 

Re-watch the Awards Ceremony

Since 2002, more than 40,000 students worldwide have participated in the Solar Decathlon, many of whom have gone on to become architects, engineers, and researchers. The Design Challenge is a one- to two-semester, design-only competition, while the Build Challenge is a two-year design-build competition. 

Build Challenge Winners 

  • Ball State University took home first place in the 2023 Build Challenge after dedicating nearly two years to designing and constructing their zero-energy home. The “Alley House” team engaged their community to reimagine a zero-energy future for historically under-utilized urban lots through construction of a high-performance, beautiful, functional family home.

Teams also receive awards for excellence in specific aspects of building construction and design, including architecture, engineering, market analysis, durability and resilience, embodied environmental impact, integrated performance, occupant experience, comfort and environmental quality, energy performance, and presentation.  

See the full list of Build Challenge Contest Winners.  

Design Challenge Winners 

Design Challenge teams compete in the same 10 contests as the Build Challenge teams. But whereas Build Challenge teams develop residential solutions, Design Challenge teams compete in one of six commercial and residential divisions including new housing, retrofit housing, attached housing, multifamily housing, office buildings, and educational buildings. A winning team is named in each division, and from these teams, Residential and Commercial Grand Winners are selected.  

University of Minnesota Twin Cities and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art earned the Residential Grand Winner and Commercial Grand Winner titles, respectively, in the 2023 Design Challenge, rising to the top of a talented group of 55 competing teams from around the world. University of Minnesota Twin Cities created a deep-energy retrofit for a three-story housing structure that aims to preserve the building’s historical character while meeting the local need for affordable, durable, and resilient housing.  The Cooper Union created an educational building design for the renovation and extension of the New York Harbor School that promotes zero energy retrofit principles and workforce development opportunities for the community.  

See the full list of Design Challenge Division Winners

Richard King Awardees 

Finally, the Solar Decathlon selects two alumni for the Richard King award who have made outstanding contributions to Solar Decathlon competitions, competitors, or the wider clean energy transition in honor of the man who founded the Solar Decathlon in 2002. The 2023 Richard King award winners are: 

  • Sarah Klinetob Lowe, operations director of the Global Building Network at Pennsylvania State University, won the 2023 Outstanding Alumni award. After participating in two Build Challenges, Sarah has served as a team advisor for nine total Solar Decathlon competition cycles, partnering with housing providers to enhance the lasting community impact of the students’ work. She has also developed impactful clean energy programs for students and professionals focused on passive house strategies and solar photovoltaic systems for developing communities.
  • Edoarda Corradi Dell’Acqua, senior lecturer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, won the 2023 Outstanding Faculty Advisor award. Edoarda has served as a lead advisor to students participating in the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge for nearly a decade, combining her expertise in both engineering and architecture to mentor students as they learn to design better buildings in several masters-level courses dedicated to the competition. 

Additional details about the competition may be found on the Solar Decathlon website. 



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