As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to helping families across the United States save money by saving energy, the U.S. Department of Energy announced winners of its third annual Race to Zero Student Design Competition, a collegiate competition engaging university students to design zero energy ready homes. A zero energy ready home is a high-performance home that is so energy efficient it can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption with renewable energy. This significantly reduces a home's annual electricity costs while improving comfort, health, safety, and durability.

The competition was held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, April 16–17, with the intention to inspire next-generation architects, engineers, and construction managers to apply the latest building science innovations in new and existing homes. The awards recognize students who excel at integrating solid building science principles into designs for zero energy ready homes including creative solutions to real-world problems.

This year's competition featured 31 teams from 25 universities. Over the past several months, students were tasked with creating a new house design or redesigning an existing floor plan to meet the competition's cost-effective, high-performance home energy requirements. The final portion of the competition concluded at NREL, as the students presented their innovative designs to a panel of national experts. These experts included leading high-performance home builders, architects, building science professionals, building product manufacturer technical experts, and national laboratory research scientists.

Below are the top winners in each contest:

Grand Winner

  • Prairie View A&M University—Green Future Team, Double Barrel Project, Prairie View, Texas

Suburban Single-Family Housing Contest

  • First place: Appalachian State University—Team (Re)Connect, Resilient House Project, Boone, North Carolina
  • Second place: Philadelphia University—Emergence team, House II Project, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Urban Single-Family Housing Contest

  • First place: Prairie View A&M University—Green Future Team, Double Barrel Project, Prairie View, Texas
  • Second place: University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee—Net Zero Wisconsin Team, Forward House Project, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Attached Housing Contest

  • First place: Philadelphia University—PhilaU Powered to Zero Team, New Affordable Zero Homes Project, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Second place: Illinois Institute of Technology—Net-Zero IIT Team, Net-Zero IIT Town Housing Project, Chicago, Illinois

Small Multifamily Housing Contest

  • First place: Ryerson University—True North Design Team, Eastern Pine Project, Toronto, Ontario
  • Second place: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—Team LINKoln, LINKoln Locale Project, Champaign, Illinois

A major goal of the competition is to advance building science curriculum in university programs across the country. Competing undergraduate students, graduate students, and university faculty are at the forefront of a leadership movement to design truly sustainable homes.

Criteria for recognition included adherence to the Department's Zero Energy Ready Home program criteria, clear project plans, and overall competency in applying best practices from the DOE's Building America program. Top priorities for each entry are geared toward developing cost-effective, market-ready, zero energy ready homes.

DOE also announced it will hold the 2017 Race to Zero Student Design Competition next April at NREL. View the program website to learn more about the competition.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) works with private industry, universities, and national laboratories to accelerate the development and facilitate deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Visit the Building Technologies Office website to learn more about broader efforts to help new and existing homes across the United States achieve cost-effective, energy-saving solutions.