Student designers honored at the Solar Decathlon 2024 fair

The annual Solar Decathlon competition was held April 19–21 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Students representing 37 collegiate institutions competed in the Design Challenge. After working for one to two semesters designing innovative and efficient buildings that address current issues related to climate change, affordability and environmental justice, these student design teams have the opportunity to present their ideas to expert judges and network with industry professionals.

Heather Laminack of Ferrier Custom Homes—an NAHB member and former chair of the Sustainability and Green Building Subcommittee—participated in the Solar Decathlon and served as a judge for the Design Challenge.

“Although the 10 competitions are the same, the approach and solutions presented by the students were significantly different from each other,” Laminack said. “The underlying theme was that they wanted to not only create a zero energy home, but also offer it as part of a broader social solution. We’ve seen floating homes in Peru, infill homes aimed at first-time home buyers in Georgia, affordable housing concepts in South Africa, fire-resistant homes in Australia and British Columbia. These challenges are complex, and students were determined to find a better way.”

Prizes are awarded to winning teams, and the overall winner was the University of Arizona, which competed in the Attached Apartments category. The team designed Harvest Mesa: 24 eco-friendly townhomes that combine shared and private elements. The concept prioritized both the culture of the Hopi tribe and modern innovations aimed at offering energy-efficient housing at affordable prices.

The NAHB has sponsored the decathlon since 2004 and almost every year since its inception.

“The whole event is full of emotion and passion,” Laminack said. “Students and faculty have put countless hours of heart and hard work into their projects and are proud to share their vision and strategy. Participants demonstrate true curiosity – always looking for ways to build better, serve more, and do it all with fewer resources. This passion is contagious and it is an honor to be a part of it.”