The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced winners of its fifth annual Race to Zero Student Design Competition, a competition that challenges collegiate teams to apply sound building science principles to create cost-effective, market-ready designs for zero energy ready homes and schools. A zero energy ready building is a high performance building that can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption with on-site renewable energy. This significantly reduces annual energy costs while improving comfort, health, safety, and durability. Student designs in the Race to Zero competition must meet either DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home program requirements or the Advanced Energy Design Guide For K–12 School Buildings–Achieving a Zero Energy Building.

"The students participating represent the next generation of architects, engineers, and construction managers that can fully integrate building science with design," said Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). "Greater building energy efficiency offers billions of dollars in potential energy cost savings in our homes and schools—and the experience at Race to Zero helps students and industry come together to apply technical resources from the DOE to real-world solutions for critical building industry challenges."

The competition was held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, April 20–22, 2018, with the intent to inspire next-generation building professionals to apply the latest building science innovations in new and existing homes and commercial buildings. The awards recognize students who excel at creative solutions to real world problems.

This year's competition featured a new commercial building design contest on elementary schools, in addition to the four residential building contests. Teams had many building type options to focus on, including new construction or retrofitting an existing building. Students from 84 teams, representing 68 collegiate institutions across nine countries, competed for finalist spots. Ultimately, 40 teams, representing 34 institutions and five countries, qualified as finalists at NREL. Team submissions had to meet the competition's cost-effective, high performance building energy requirements, as well as demonstrate strong design concepts. The juror panels included leading high performance home builders, architects, building science professionals, building product manufacturer experts, and national laboratory research scientists.

Below are the top winners in each contest:

Grand Winner

  • Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas

Suburban Single-Family Housing Contest

  • First place: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
  • Second place: University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri

Urban Single-Family Housing Contest

  • First place: Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas
  • Second place: Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana

Attached Housing Contest

  • First place: University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • Second place: Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

Small Multifamily Housing Contest

  • First place: Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
  • Second place: Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois

Elementary Schools Contest

  • First place: Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont
  • Second place: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia

The primary goals of the competition are to advance building science curricula in university programs across the country and inspire students to continue careers promoting high-performance buildings. Competing undergraduate students, graduate students, and university faculty are at the forefront of a leadership movement to design very sustainable homes and schools.

The Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates the research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and validates their performance in the field. Visit the Building Technologies Office website to learn more about broader efforts to help new and existing homes and schools across the United States find cost-effective, energy-saving solutions.