Illinois Solar Decathlon has two teams working on competitions: The Solar Decathlon Build Challenge with a local exhibit in Champaign – May 2020, and the national exhibit at the National Mall, Washington, DC – June 2020; Solar Decathlon Design Challenge with a digital presentation – April 2020; and a concept team of first-year students researching new sustainable designs and various ideas to improve built houses. Forty-eight students are in the Build team, 43 in the Design team and 28 in the Concept team. Team members come from across campus, including the Grainger College of Engineering, College of Fine & Applied Arts, and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
Solar Decathlon Build Challenge is organized and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Selected teams competing in the Build Challenge have two years to design and build complete, functional houses to demonstrate creative solutions for real-world issues in the building industry, culminating with the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge Event in Washington, D.C., in summer 2020. The Illini presented their design with other teams at the Solar Decathlon 2019 Design Challenge Weekend and was one of eleven out of twenty teams selected for the Build Challenge.
The Team Illinois house tackles multiple intertwined issues. First, they are designing a home that can shift in favor of populations likely to see lifestyle changes in the coming years. The modular home is capable of attaching and detaching to units, while also sporting shiftable interior walls. Such capabilities allow the inhabitants to design their home based on need, while allowing for both up-scaling and down-scaling. Second, the house meets ADA regulations and has a variety of low maintenance components accommodating for aging populations. There is excitement surrounding the Illini’s willingness to re-imagine how people live at various stages of life.
The team has several sponsors including DOE, University of Illinois, the Grainger CEME, Skender, Thornton Tomasetti, Mitsubishi, USG, and Affiliated Engineers. Their aim is to complete 100% Construction Documents by the end of the year and are also working toward obtaining Passive House and LEED certificates.
Design Challenge qualifying teams complete a design project and attend the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend, where they present their designs to a panel of industry expert jurors, compare their projects to those of other teams, learn from presentations by thought leaders and collegiate peers, and engage with a variety of organizations about energy careers.
Team Illinois created and designed a multifamily complex last year. They chose their design to be located in Austin, Texas, where specific attention had been given to the regional climate, local demographic demands, community living and self-sufficiency tactics. This building is called ARC: Architecture, Resilience and Community. Team Illinois adopted a systems-thinking approach to the design. There were two main design goals: sustainable urban community living and resiliency to flash floods.
Design Challenge Weekend took place in April 2019, when ten Illinois students, five each from Design and Build Team, traveled to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado to present their projects. The Solar Decathlon Build Team received an Approval to Proceed certificate.
Illinois Solar Decathlon students have the opportunity to receive credits for their contributions. ABE 498 is a design course offered by Professor Xinlei Wang of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department for both engineers and non-engineers. The project manager serves as the teaching assistant to coordinate the course. In Spring 2019, 22 students were enrolled in the course.