The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Competitions gives student teams the option to participate in either the Design Challenge, a one- to two-semester, design-only competition, or the Build Challenge, a 2-year project where qualifying teams design and build houses that are displayed and judged in their local communities.

This year, Ball State CAP students competing in the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge are one of sixteen teams from three countries awarded $50,000 from the Department of Energy to continue with their plans to build a net zero energy, two-family home, referred to as “Alley House” with the help of local community partners and sponsors. The multidisciplinary team of CAP students from both graduate and undergraduate professional programs, is led by faculty Pam Harwood, Dan Overbey, and Steven Grootaert with contributions from several additional CAP faculty.

“The goal of the Build Challenge, is to design a net-zero energy home that makes at least as much energy onsite as it uses on an annual basis and is the preeminent model of green residential design in the world today. The competition leverages students and universities to inspire the building industry and provides students opportunities for real-world, hands-on learning in preparation for sustainability-related careers,” says Pam Harwood.

“The “Alley House” duplex will be part of a much larger initiative of our community partner Englewood CDC, and Gratus Development. They are building 40 units or 20 duplex family homes in the St. Philip Neri neighborhood of Indianapolis on the Near Eastside”.

After advancing to the build portion of the competition, the Alley House project was awarded $25,000 in State Farm’s Neighborhood Assist program competition and Ball State and its Bachelor and Master of Architecture programs were among the first cohort awarded a Zero Energy Design Designation (ZEDD) by the Department of Energy (DOE) that recognizes academic coursework focused on building science and zero-energy design.

The Zero Energy Design Designation program supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. With buildings being one of the main contributors to carbon emissions, building professionals must be trained to design and construct high-efficiency, low-carbon buildings powered by renewables to achieve this goal. Learn more in the U.S. Department of Energy press release.


Students Achieve Second Place in the Design Challenge 

A team of four Ball State undergraduate Bachelor of Architecture students (Tyler Renschen, Zeelyn Stutz, Dillon Redding, Charlie Davis) working with Assistant Professor Tom Collins, received second place for the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge in the Attached Housing Division.

Project Summary
The Project Xero attached housing proposal suggests that we rethink the idea of attached housing as we see it in the architecture of today by speaking to a community- centric planning strategy that offers density, efficiency, and diversity of space. Working with Englewood Community Development Corporation helped Studio Xero understand the current gentrification problem enveloping the near east side community of Englewood, IN, and set forth the Livability, Opportunity, Vitality, and Education community goals for which the Project Xero proposal utilizes to help give back to the rapidly growing area.

See their presentation here.


More information about the Solar Decathlon projects at Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning.