Penn State Race to Zero team wins two Excellence Awards

April 29, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA -- Penn State’s H4: Heritage Homes Team, composed of more than 25 architecture and engineering students, strongly impressed the judges of the 2015 US Department of Energy (DOE) Race to Zero Student Design Competition. Penn State won awards in two of the three excellence award categories: Design Excellence and Systems Integration Excellence. The competition was held April 18-20, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

A total of 33 teams from 27 schools across the United States and Canada competed in the 2015 competition. Student Team Leader, Kyle Macht (first-year M.Arch; B.A.E./M.A.E.) and Student Marketing Coordinator Chauntel Duriez (fifth-year student pursuing an integrated masters in architecture) represented the Penn State team. Lisa Domenica Iulo, associate professor in architecture and a head competition faculty adviser, lauded Macht and Duriez’s winning presentation in Golden, Colorado. “Their chemistry, professionalism, and how they engaged with their audience was amazing. Many of those watching shared the confidence that the Penn State team would be successful based on their presentation.”

“The competition was fantastic. We did really well, and many people -- students, industry partners, and jurors -- were really impressed with the project,” said Macht. “It was incredible to meet some of the best building scientists in the country and for them to be impressed with us. The entire competition was inspirational, giving me the motivation to make a difference in housing industry.”

Fellow head faculty advisor Scott Wing, associate professor in architecture, reinforced the interdisciplinary and extensive educational benefits of Penn State’s participation.

"The Race to Zero competition provides an ideal challenge combining architectural design excellence with high performance building science expertise. Students from architecture and engineering worked closely with their peers to leverage the talents of both programs.”

-- Scott Wing, associate professor of architecture 

The competition challenged and inspired students to design an affordable, net zero energy home that meets DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home guidelines. The design concept, “H4 | Heritage Homes: High Performance Living in Harmony with Community” was created in collaboration with the State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT) as the pilot project of their new GREENBUILD initiative. The SCCLT urged the team to not only consider the competition’s mandates but also to design an owner-occupied, net zero energy duplex home that will be constructed within close proximity to Penn State’s University Park campus in State College Borough on University Drive. Wing noted, “The SCCLT challenged students to consider affordability both in initial construction costs and long term energy costs."

The resulting design was a two story, three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,440 square feet per living unit net zero energy duplex that integrates with the surrounding landscape and neighborhood. The home incorporates Visitability features, such as a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor, and its floor plan is adaptable for both young families and empty nesters. It also features solar photovoltaic systems that produce 100 percent of each home’s energy onsite, significantly reducing the resident’s annual utility bills.

The team worked closely with the SCCLT throughout the design process through design charettes and visual preference surveys. “I was extremely impressed with the knowledge the students brought to the discussion,” said SCCLT Board Member Ron Filippelli. “They were well informed and very professional.”

Additionally, the team engaged with more than fourteen industry mentors to receive real world insight on buildability, cost estimates, HVAC design, solar photovoltaic system design, and marketability. “I applaud all of [the] students for taking the initiative to pursue designs that are both high-performance and affordable by developing thoughtful solutions that account for not only the aesthetic value of homes, but the energy efficiency and cost effectiveness of the materials and construction methods, as well,” stated industry mentor Chad Owens, owner of Timber Rock Homes of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. “I have been equally impressed by the [construction] documents produced thus far.”

As proud as the team is of their competition success, the hard work is still in progress. Students in the ARCH 497 Net Zero Housing class (a sub-group of seventeen students of the competition team) will present four design options to the SCCLT to evaluate and make final selections. Cost estimates, fundraising, and selection of a builder will follow. The team and their stakeholders anticipate this story, as well as actual construction, to develop over the coming few years.

It is the H4 Team and the SCCLT’s hope that this project will be a model for the development of future affordable, sustainable housing in State College Borough and the Centre County Region.

“It’s already a success story which will only get better as we move ahead.”

-- SCCLT Vice President Susan Venegoni

The competition team was supported in great part by the Pennsylvania Housing Resource Center (PHRC). The ongoing coordination with the SCCLT as the project moves to the next stage of development will continue to be supported by the Hamer Center for Community Design design-build arm, the Energy Efficient Housing Research Group.

  • Computer rendering of energy efficient house

    Award-winning Race to Zero house design by Penn State student team comprised of architecture and engineering undergrad and graduate students.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Overhead view of group of people working around tables

    Race to Zero competition "Live-ability" charette held at the Stuckeman School this spring. Community members, faculty, and students worked together on schematic designs and research for sustainable, low-cost, energy-efficient "GREENBUILD" housing in the State College area.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated May 12, 2016