Miami University Students Win Grand Prize at Solar Decathlon

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Students from the architecture + interior design and mechanical engineering departments at Miami University collaborated in the 2020 Solar Decathlon on April 18-19, 2020. The teams planned to travel to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, to present their projects last week. The trip was canceled, but they were able to present their final proposals in a virtual event where they won the top award for Attached Housing and was awarded Grand Jury Winner in the residential division. The Mixed-Use Multifamily team also competed brilliantly among their international competitors and came away with the prize for Best Poster.

The Solar Decathlon Design Challenge, formerly called Race to Zero, is an annual competition open to students from collegiate institutions worldwide. The competition encourages students to work with builders, developers, community leaders, and other industry partners to meet stringent design requirements and create marketable, affordable concepts. Teams compete in a range of residential and commercial project types. Projects are evaluated by jurors in ten contest categories:
Energy Performance; Engineering; Financial Feasibility & Affordability; Resilience; Architecture; Operations; Market Potential; Comfort & Environmental Quality; Innovation; Presentation.

The Miami University studio fielded two teams in the competition, and both were selected to be among the 45 finalist teams representing 31 institutions from the U.S. and internationally. Working together as a collaborative design studio, the students centered their efforts around the regeneration of an existing under-utilized urban block in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. A master plan for the project envisions a synergistic relationship between affordable housing and community spaces. The adjacency invites an integrative and holistic
experience for residents and community members alike. Connections are strengthened by shared resources, including a community room, laundromat, co-working spaces, a storm shelter, recreational facilities, and a community garden.

Both projects build on the efforts of Miami University’s Center for Community Engagement (MUCCE). Solar Decathlon studio participants made a strong connection to The People’s Movement of O.T.R. that has been the manifesto of MUCCE for nearly 40 years. Their passionate and inspiring plea for equitable, affordable housing that benefits established community members was the keystone for project development. Sustainability efforts were paramount: environment, equity, economy.

The mid-block EcoGarden (created as a permaculture environment) is positioned between the housing developments and provides a much-needed local food source, outdoor gathering space, as well as educational opportunities in conjunction with the neighboring elementary school. The garden is planted with a diverse mix of fruit trees, native flowers, and grasses, that enrich the greater ecosystem of the surrounding community by inviting the appearance of native birds and a bee population essential to food production. The project builds on the efforts of Permaganic Co. to feed and educate this under-served community of Over-The-Rhine.

Miami’s New Urbanists team competed in the Mixed-Use Multifamily division to design G.R.O. (or Greater Residential Opportunity). Their design enables residents to develop an appreciation and a sense of responsibility for the environment. The project is structured with cross-laminated timber (CLT) beams, columns, and floor slabs that reduce the carbon footprint, thereby tempering the environmental impact and reducing greenhouse gasses that would otherwise be released into the
atmosphere. Windows are designed with high-performance glazing to admit plentiful daylight, supplemented by sensor-controlled L.E.D. lighting. The team’s HVAC strategy focuses on individually controlled, decentralized mini-split air source heat pumps integrated with an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) for each living unit. A Tenant Handbook and smartphone app will be customized for the community to provide an interface for residents to track their energy and water consumption as well as connect to events like neighborhood forums.

Miami’s Getting Too Attached team competed in the attached housing division to design Peace Village. The students envisioned an affordable residential community with contemporary floor plans and unit sizes suitable for a variety of family structures. Their design for the neighborhood facilitates a sustainable and regenerative lifestyle: A community EcoGarden and greenway that allows for community interaction in addition to opportunities for the display of local street art on existing and new building surfaces.

Peace Village homes are constructed with a prefabricated high-performance BuildSmart wall panel system with rain-screen cladding. The building enclosure minimizes heat gains and losses through careful joint and seam detailing of the unitized wall, floor band, and roof band panels that integrate structure, insulation, and air sealing. The homes enjoy superior acoustic and thermal comfort with low energy via energy recovery ventilation, ducted mini-split heating, and cooling systems, EnergyStar appliances, L.E.D. lighting, and triple-glazed windows.

Both teams utilized extensive energy modeling in their process to arrive at designs that meet climate-specific performance targets for carbon and energy reduction, as well as healthy indoor air quality as established by the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) Passive Building Standard.

Miami student participants are:

Mixed-use Multifamily Team: The New Urbanists
KENDRA SOLER: Architecture Major, Team Leader.
KIARA CLARK: Architecture Major, Disabilities Studies Minor.
ALI DARWISH: Architecture Major, Interactive Media Studies Minor.
ALLI DIGIACOMO: Architecture Major, Disabilities Studies Minor.
BOWEN LIU: Architecture Major, Sustainability Co-Major.
ALICE O’BRIEN: Mechanical Engineering Major.
SHANNON O’DONNELL: Architecture Major, Painting Minor
SAM SCRIBA: Architecture Major, Education Minor.
PETER SETTLE: Architecture Major, Education Leadership.
JIE ZHANG: Architecture Major, Comp Science Co-Major.

Attached Housing Team: Getting Too Attached
TIM SPERLING: Architecture Major, Sustainability Minor, Team Leader.
KYLIE BLOVITS: Interior Design Major, French Minor.
ELLIOTT BOYLE: Architecture Major, Urban Design Minor.
COLIN FINNIGAN: Architecture Major, Painting Minor.
JAKE GANSENBERG: Architecture Major, Mechanical Engineering Minor.
TORI HOFFMAN: Architecture Major, Management Minor.
TAYLOR LUEHR: Architecture Major, Geography Minor.
TAYLOR MASON: Engineering Major, Finance Minor.
EMMA RICHARDS: Architecture Major, Photography Minor.
JUSTIN STANLEY: Architecture Major, Digital Innovation Minor.
ANNA STEWART: Architecture Major, Fashion Minor.

The student team was advised by industry partners including Heapy Engineering, Human Nature, Over-The-Rhine Community Housing, Green Building Consulting and The Model Group. The 2020 Solar Decathlon studio was led by John Becker with consulting faculty advisors Mary Rogero and Mary Ben Bonham (architecture and interior design) and Ryan Clark (mechanical and manufacturing engineering). Miami students first entered the competition in 2017, bringing home a second-place win in the multifamily division. In 2018 and 2019, Miami teams earned first place in multifamily and elementary school divisions, and two second place finishes in the attached housing division.

For more information please vist the Solar Decathlon page.

 Attached House Solar Decathlon Entry
 Attached House Solar Decathlon Entry
solar decathlon entry 2020
decathlon entry 02
2020 Solar Decathlon Entry