Solar Decathlon


The International Competition for Sustainable Buildings

Initiated in 2002, the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has spread internationally where several countries now host their own variants. UC Berkeley students have recently joined several since 2015 and continue to work on our legacy of sustainable building. Check out our projects below!

Current Projects

Solar Decathlon 2021 Design Challenge

The Glass (2020) and Tubbs (2017) fires left Santa Rosa with some of the largest homeless encampments it has ever seen. While homelessness has fallen since 2013, the number of homeless has hovered around 3,000 since 2015. COVID-19 has only added an extra layer of difficulties to life for this population. To this end, we are designing a mixed-income housing facility which includes units set aside for transitional housing for the homeless transitioning towards permanent housing. We aim to provide transitional housing for this community, with a significant portion likely including community members displaced by wildfire. These are often families whose homes have been destroyed. Our shelter design could act as long- or short-term housing for them as they work on finding a new place to stay. We will design part of the building to be family housing to accommodate their immediate needs after the fires. 

Solar Decathlon China 2021

Urbanizing regions around the world are facing critical challenges as the reactionary forces of nonrenewable energy industries respond to the new economic viability of renewables, governments scramble to respond to the increasing tangibility of climate catastrophe, and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates urban-rural migration while exposing the instability of modern economic systems. All of these further destabilize the livelihoods of local residents in already volatile conditions. Zhangjiakou is an exemplary model of these phenomena and has been targeted as a testbed for combatting these issues – as a fragile ecotone replete with natural resources and a site for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, it lies at the intersection of ongoing national and international pressures for a massive top-down restructuring of infrastructure. The locals of Zhangjiakou have already begun feeling the effects of green gentrification and ecological trauma, and given the history of Olympic development and the CCP’s centralized approach to urban planning, there is a pressing need for rethinking how communities can be built for the people while still averting climate disaster. The UC Berkeley team is providing the building controls research for their partner, the Harbin Institute of Technology.

Previous Projects

Solar Decathlon 2017 (RISE)

The R I S ☰ home is a sustainable, net-zero house designed specifically for the densely populated areas of Richmond, CA. The design aligns with UC Berkeley and University of Denver’s commitments to public service and innovative social impact by creating a home that aims to combat the overcrowding and environmental challenges facing many Bay Area residents. Our approach emerged from an emphasis on practical, logical thought in design instead of elaborate technological systems. The R I S ☰ home is accessible for middle to low income families struggling with the Bay Area housing crisis. In Richmond, the overall cost of living is 20 percent greater than the national average, housing prices are on the rise (over 10% this past year), and air quality and water quality scores by the EPA are ranked significantly lower than the rest of the nation. Accordingly, we tailored our design to increase energy efficiency, improve air quality, and encourage community engagement. The RIS☰ home is a simple product that can create residential solutions that are inviting, stackable, and efficient.