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Architecture Students Awarded Prizes in U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Competition

For the third time in as many years, teams from the College of Architecture & Built Environment (CABE) have placed in the top of the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual Solar Decathlon Design Challenge.

Things were a little different this year, though, as 45 teams from 31 collegiate institutions competed from afar since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Design Challenge Weekend to be held virtually from April 17 through 19. (Last year, teams from Jefferson traveled to Denver for the competition).

Teams from the university were awarded second place in the Mixed-Use Multifamily Division and honorable mention in the Attached Housing Division.

Barbara Klinkhammer, CABE’s dean, couldn’t have been prouder of this year’s competitors.

“It is proof of the talent, skills and knowledge that our students are developing in an interdisciplinary learning environment preparing them for sustainable practice the moment they graduate,” says Klinkhammer. “I am proud of our students who will be at the forefront of the profession to tackle climate change through a solid understanding of sustainable practices.”

The students involved in the mixed-use multifamily division submission are Jeb Burleigh, Kyle Chang, Elana Honig-Juarez, Teddy Pickering, Derek Sibinga and Manoj Sundaramoorthy.

That team of forward-thinking designers pondered several noteworthy questions in their presentation. They are:

  • What if energy is the missing link to making housing affordable?
  • How can building affordable housing nourish, educate, and empower both stakeholders and shareholders?
  • Should historic stock be repurposed or demolished?
  • Is a building actually net-zero energy in operation if it is reliant on municipal water?
  • What if your rent was immediately reinvested into your community?
  • How can the local housing authority and the neighborhood create lasting capital together?

The students involved in the attached housing division submission are Omar Abdulrahman, Ross Capaccio, Theresa Chiarenza, Nhan Dung, Alexxa Ingalls, Riya Malik and Chadd Ziegler.

In that “Row Home Regen” presentation, the team focused on housing in Philadelphia’s Sharswood neighborhood.

Technical goals included net-zero energy and water, passive ventilation, off-the-grid considerations, natural light and replicability. They also focused on community goals ranging from accessibility, affordability and aging in place, to flexible space, food growth and home ownership.

Max Zahniser, the professor who has been leading the competition, said he was not only excited about the news, but eager to get one of the projects built with his students.

“We have really important work to do for the remaining weeks of the term with our academic and neighborhood communities, and building at least one of these projects,” says Zahniser.

According to the DOE, the collegiate competition “challenges student teams to design and build highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. The winners will be those teams that best blend architectural and engineering excellence with innovation, market potential, building efficiency, and smart energy production.”