We are thrilled to report that the Illinois Solar Decathlon construction of the RENU House is mostly complete. A public exhibition showing our progress was held on April 15 and 16. We would like to express our gratitude to CEME for their support, which has enabled us to turn this project into a reality. Illinois Solar Decathlon’s Build team is working with a local general contractor, Nelson Builder, to complete RENU House.

Our team had one year to design RENU House and one year to build it. The Village of Rantoul donated the plot of land, and RENU House is being donated to Champaign County Habitat for Humanity. We believe that the success of our project depends on the impact, ethos, and change it can bring to residents and the community. We have organized numerous outreach events, including the Groundbreaking Event, where nearby residents were informed about the construction site and the benefits of sustainable construction. In addition, we invited Architecture Professor Mark Taylor and his class to visit our site for an in-depth educational tour of the RENU House. Furthermore, we have also worked closely with the Habitat for Humanity Champaign Chapter to find the perfect match for our RENU-House. We are delighted to announce that we have met with our future residents of RENU-House and now our team is working with the family to make some personalized updates to the house. The future owners are a wheelchair-bound single mom and her pregnant 20-year-old daughter. One of our biggest achievements until now is their excitement and happiness with the progress of RENU-House. They have been approved for a low-interest mortgage. As they pay it off, the money will go back to Champaign County Habitat for Humanity, where it can be used toward other Habitat for Humanity homes.

Construction began in the second week of January, and we have made several significant milestones since then. Moreover, we have established partnerships with local businesses to promote the use of sustainable materials and practices in construction. These partnerships have helped us source eco-friendly materials and equipment, reducing the carbon footprint of our project.

We have also engaged with the community through our social media channels, where we regularly post updates and share information about our progress (see  https://www.illinoissolardecathlon.com/  Our social media accounts have gained significant traction, with a growing number of followers who are interested in sustainable construction practices. We are expecting completion by May 15-20th and occupancy by mid-June.

Representatives from our team went to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, from April 20th through the 23rd for the Solar Decathlon judging. The Build team gave a three-hour presentation where we were rated on all the decathlon tasks: Architecture, Engineering, Market Analysis, Durability and Resilience, Embodied Environmental Impact, Integrated Performance, Occupant Experience, Comfort and Environmental Quality, Energy Performance, and Presentation. Eleven teams (including Illinois) from the U.S., Canada, and Mumbai, India, presented. Although points were deducted from our score because of delays in roofing and the solar connection, Illinois placed 6th overall, winning first place in Market Analysis and Presentation and third in Architecture.

This article was written by Henil Patel and Joyce Mast.

Pouring the concrete foundation

Framing the walls

Team celebrating trusses and roof

Walls with insulation.

Drone picture of RE-NU house framed-up with the roof. Ready to be made into a home for the new owners.

Frame with trusses and roof.