The University of Illinois Solar Decathlon team (ISD) is designing an energy-efficient sustainable house adaptable to user requirements. The modular homes can be attached and detached to units, and include multifunctional furniture. These capabilities allow the inhabitant to design their home based on their need while allowing for both upscaling and downscaling. Secondly, this house will be strictly in accordance with ADA regulations as well as have a variety of low-maintenance components to accommodate aging populations. There is excitement surrounding the organization’s willingness to re-imagine how people live at various stages of life. Several professors from the Grainger College of Engineering and Architecture have guided the team to develop this idea. Illinois Solar Decathlon students, shown in Figure 24, have the opportunity to receive credits for their contributions.

Solar 10 2019-20 Build team members

Figure 24: 2019-20 Illinois Build Team members

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, whose research assistantship is funded by the Grainger Center, serves as the teaching assistant to coordinate the course, with 41 students enrolled in Fall 2019 and 18 in Spring 2020. Build team students are majoring in mechanical, electrical, civil and environmental, and agricultural and biological engineering, as well as math, computer science, and art and design.
In Fall 2019, ISD successfully submitted deliverables consisting of 95% construction drawings and specifications for the project. (See project rendering in Figure 25.) The design was approved and stamped by licensed structural engineer Bill Bash, Principal of Thornton Tomasetti.

2019-2020 Solar 10 Build team renderingg

Figure 25: Project rendering

We have established a not-for-profit organization, SolHomes Inc., which would own the house. As of now, we intend to donate it to Habitat for Humanity after the competition. Students participating in construction activities were provided OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 training. In Spring 2020, ISD submitted D5 Deliverable comprising of 100% construction documented. ISD also secured a $150,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.
COVID-19 Impact: The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Build Challenge Organizers postponed the competition to April 2021. It will be organized at National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colorado, instead of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival at Washington, DC. The teams are now required to present their design virtually and no longer need to ship their house modules to the competition venue. Our construction timeline has also been rescheduled due to the pandemic.
Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 Plan: ISD will focus on construction work ensuring all Request for Information from contractors is resolved, getting design approval and certification of Building Occupancy from the City Planning department along with coordination with local general contractor, Broeren Russo, and modules manufacturer, Skender, for construction queries. In parallel, ISD will organize events to increase awareness of our project and work on deliverables. According to our construction timeline, Skender is scheduled to begin fabricating modules in September and Broeren Russo to start on-site construction in Fall 2020. Once modules are delivered on our site, 1202 N. Walnut St., Champaign, Broeren Russo, along with building services, will work on construction of the façade, solar panels and outdoor canopy and decking in Spring 2021. Students will participate in construction activities under supervision with training—a unique hands-on learning experience.