Northeastern University Solar Decathlon Team Wins $50K in Contingent DOE Funding

Northeastern’s Solar Decathlon team’s project won contingent approval to proceed in the 2023 Build Challenge from the Department of Energy (DOE) last month, a distinction that comes with $50,000 in funding. The approval was won following a trip to DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado by Northeastern’s team to present their proposed townhouse developments.

Northeastern University’s Solar Decathlon team, founded by CEE student Carrie Tam, is an interdisciplinary student organization that is competing in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Build Challenge, a competition aimed at developing new generations of clean energy buildings. According to DOE, teams competing in the Build Challenge must “work during a two-year period to design, build, and operate their houses in their own region.” Rather than simply design a hypothetical building, the Northeastern students will be working with local partners to turn their vision into a real housing for the city of Boston.

This year’s team was led by Aasav Harania, an MS Energy Systems student, and Ted Walinskas, a student pursuing a BS in Chemical Engineering and an MS in Engineering and Public Policy, and advised by CEE Assistant Professor Mike Kane, an expert in green building design and energy efficiency. Working in tandem with a local developer, Urbanica, and with consultation from RDH and ODEH Engineers, Walinskas and his team of interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate students have proposed novel triple decker housing units for construction in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.

The Solar Decathlon team, through six technical subgroups including architecture, business, home automation, landscaping, energy systems, and structural systems, have designed a new spin on the triple decker, a traditional home style found in the Boston area. Their design will improve energy efficiency through novel structural design and materials choices, as well as improvement in electrical design and smart climate control systems, energy efficient appliances, and solar panels. The six 3-bed units they plan to construct will be distributed by the City of Boston through an affordable housing program.

The $50K prize money and building of the units is contingent on the Northeastern team winning an upcoming RFP for Land Acquisition, which will give them the rights to build on the proposed Roxbury site. “DOE is willing to write a letter of support for our RFP bid as well,” Walinskas explained, after having met with DOE’s Solar Decathlon Program Manager and Build Competition Organizer. “They expressed a really strong interest in our project, understanding we are in a truly unique position for Solar Decathlon, and are eager to help us succeed with this development. The judges also gave us praise for our Triple Decker design integrating into the existing urban landscape within Boston.” If all goes according to plan, the Northeastern team will compete in the April 2023 Solar Decathlon Competition Event, where they will present their completed unit to a panel of judges to decide the ultimate winner of 23 possible collegiate teams from around the world.

Related Faculty: Michael Kane

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering