The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced winners of its fourth 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 energy costs while improving comfort, health, safety, and durability.

The competition was held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, April 22–23, 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 39 teams from 33 universities from four countries. During the past several months, students were tasked with creating a new house design or redesigning an existing floorplan 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 experts, and national laboratory research scientists.

Below are the top winners in each contest:

Grand Winner

  • Ryerson University and University of Toronto—Future Cities Collective, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Suburban Single-Family Housing Contest

  • First place: Ball State University—Team Woodridge, Muncie, Indiana
  • Second place: Appalachian State University— Appalachian [In]sight, Boone, North Carolina

Urban Single-Family Housing Contest

  • First place: CEPT University—Team KILL BILL, Ahmedabad, India
  • Second place: Illinois Institute of Technology—B.R.O.N.Z.E., Chicago, Illinois

Attached Housing Contest

  • First place: Ryerson University and University of Toronto—Future Cities Collective, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Second place: University of Minnesota Twin Cities—OptiMN, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Small Multifamily Housing Contest

  • First place: Georgia Institute of Technology—Team AtoZ, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Second place: Miami University—Race to Zero MiamiOH, Oxford, Ohio

A major goal of the competition is to advance building science curricula in university programs across the country. Competing undergraduate students, graduate students, and university faculty are at the forefront of a leadership movement to design very 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 DOE's Building America Program. Top priorities for each entry are geared toward developing cost-effective, market-ready, zero energy ready homes.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates the research and development 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.