2023 Solar Decathlon Build Challenge

Since the Summer of 2021 a multi-disciplinary group of Ball State Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) students and faculty have ventured into a five-semester-long design and build project for the 2023 Solar Decathlon Build Challenge, an international competition conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy. During this two-year competition, students design and (if they advance to the final round) actually build a complete sustainable and functional house in a local community to demonstrate their net-zero energy solutions.

Student Project

Having advanced to the build portion of the competition, CAP students submitted a design for a two-family dwelling they refer to as the “Alley House.”  The groundbreaking was held in July, and construction will begin in late August or early September.

Students are partnering with the Near Eastside Englewood Community Development Corporation and Gratus Development of Indianapolis. Gratus is the developer for the Englewood Homes 40-unit affordable housing development of 20 two-family homes. The Alley House will be two units within the project.

When the home is completed in 2023, CAP students will perform measured contests for the competition, give tours for the community and develop educational activities to explain the interdependency of building design elements to achieve optimized net-zero energy building performance of the duplex. Validating a fully functional house, students will host guests and serve a complete meal within the home as well as charge an electric vehicle in the Alley House.

Faculty Mentors

There are many multi-disciplinary faculty that help mentor portions of this large comprehensive net-zero energy design project…

  • Pam Harwood, Tom Collins, Dan Overbey, Walter Grondzik, Steven Grootaert – Department of Architecture
  • Chris Marlow – Department of Landscape Architecture
  • Donna Browne, Robert Koester – Center for Energy Research|Education|Service (CERES)
  • Sarah Alfaro and Sherif Attallah – Department of Construction Management and Interior Design
  • John West – Department of Urban Planning

Immersive Learning Experience

This project is one of Ball State’s immersive learning projects–a high-impact learning experience in which students earn credit for working with community partners and agencies to address community challenges through the creation of a product that has a lasting impact.

Working with community and industry partners gives CAP students valuable real-world, hands-on learning that prepares them for sustainability-related careers.