EEBA's High Performance Home Blog

Posts From April, 2019

EEBA Recap of the Design Challenge

Students involved with the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge produce some amazing projects and prove why they are invaluable to the future of our industry.
EEBA Recap of the Design Challenge

Last weekend EEBA Executive Director, Nancy Bakeman, had the privilege of attending the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon Design Challenge in Golden, Colorado. Over 400 people with a wide variety of backgrounds were in attendance at what Bakeman says was an “energizing and inspiring” event. “These kids are brilliant, and it was such a cool experience to see,” says Bakeman.

Before the event even began, teams had to produce a 60+ page report outlining all the details of their project. The weekend itself was packed with events, tours of the National Renewable Energy Lab, presentations and some fun team challenges. On Saturday Bakeman listened to many of the amazing presentations and had a chance to talk with the students.                            

First place awards were handed out to the Design Challenge teams in six different categories on Sunday morning during breakfast. In addition, 11 teams in the Build Challenge were announced that are able to move forward with their project (the next phase of the Solar Decathlon) as they were awarded their funding. Then each first place Design Challenge team had to present their winning project to the full audience and the Grand Jurors - in just 10 minutes. The Grand Jurors then selected the overall Grand Winner - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Breakfast was followed by the Career Connections where over 20 companies, including EEBA, had tables set up for students to ask questions and network. Scholarships for October’s High Performance Home Summit in Denver will be awarded to the following winning teams:

  • Urban Single-Family: Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Suburban Single-Family: United States Military Academy at West Point (West Point, New York)
  • Mixed-Use Multifamily: State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse, New York) and Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
  • Attached Housing: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia)





At one point during the weekend, Bakeman recalls members of the audience being asked to raise their hand if they were over a certain age. As she looked around, she noticed, similar to many industry events, the number of hands in the air accompanied by graying hair. “The industry is getting older,” she says. “There is a big need for a younger generation to get into building science and keep pushing it even further.”

Bakeman says she is looking forward to developing the partnership between EEBA and the Solar Decathlon to get more students involved in building science and energy efficiency careers. She hopes to recruit more students for the training sessions EEBA holds across the country throughout the year, the High Performance Home Summit, and various development activities.


Next week, keep a lookout for another perspective of the Design Challenge from Thrive Home Builders’ Nathan Kahre - a former participant of the Solar Decathlon who has a great story for how he ended up at Thrive.

Photos courtesy NREL

In Honor or Earth Day, We’re Giving You a High Performance Offer

For a limited time, EEBA is offering a deep discount on the 2019 High Performance Home Summit.
In Honor or Earth Day, We’re Giving You a High Performance Offer

From October 1-3 builders, architects, educators, manufacturers and energy geeks from around the country will descend upon Denver, Colorado for the 37th Annual High Performance Home Summit. EEBA is offering a 25% discount on the already reduced rate - but only through Earth Day, Monday, April 22nd!

This year’s theme, Reach for the Summit: A Future Where Every Home is High Performing, Healthy & Resilient, is appropriately titled - Colorado is home to over 50 fourteeners (mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet). The conference theme will focus on the following goals:

  • The Trek In A commitment to defining and building high performance homes
  • Base Camp Knowing where you are and identifying your goals
  • Acclimatization Understanding the methodologies, materials, and strategies to achieve success
  • The Summit Verifiable performance and measured success

Our host hotel will be the Embassy Suites Denver Downtown. It is conveniently located less than a mile from Denver Union Station which easily allows you to hop on the light rail from the airport for $10.50 and be downtown in about a half hour.

And need we say more than “Denver”? The mile-high city, a place where the sun comes out more than 300 days a year, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, and the producer of some damn good craft beer.

Arrive a day early for the EEBA conference, or stay a day late (or both!). Hop on a bike share and ride along the river and enjoy the sunshine, food, beer and scenery Colorado has to offer. Take a stroll down to the Contemporary Museum of Art or the Denver Botanic Gardens or jump in an Uber and head over to a nearby golf course for a round.

Don’t miss this year’s event and your chance to spend some time in the mile high city, catch up with industry friends, and deep dive into many topics surrounding energy efficiency and high performance homes!


This weekend, students from 47 teams from around the world will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Design Challenge.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will be abuzz this weekend, April 12-14, 2019, as hundreds of students descend upon Golden, Colorado for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon Design Challenge.

38 colleges will be represented from around the world including Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Panamá, England, and Brazil will join teams from the U.S. in this highly competitive event. Competing teams will have spent 1-2 academic semesters creating solutions for real-world issues in the building industry.

Teams will present their designs to a panel of industry experts in one of six building type categories: Suburban Single-Family, Urban Single-Family, Attached Housing, Mixed-Use Multifamily, Elementary School, or Office Building. Innovation, cost-effectiveness, time to build, quality, resilience, grid-interactivity, efficiency, and local responsiveness are all areas in which each team will be judged. A winner will be chosen in each category, in addition to an overall Design Challenge Grand Winner.

During the event, EEBA will be participating in the Solar Decathlon Career Connections weekend where students will have the chance to engage with potential employers and professionals in various fields surrounding energy efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy sees the “Collegiate institutions that participate in the leaders who are producing career-ready professionals with cutting-edge skills.”

The Design Challenge collegiate institutions are:

  • Appalachian State University (Boone, North Carolina)
  • Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana)
  • California State University, Fullerton (Fullerton, California)
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • CEPT University (Ahmedabad, India)
  • Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture for Women (Pune, India)
  • Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti, Michigan)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Hampton University (Hampton, Virginia)
  • Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Jefferson University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Kansas State University (Manhattan, Kansas)
  • King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia)
  • Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan)
  • State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse, New York)
  • Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
  • Technische Universität Berlin - EUREF Campus (Berlin, Germany)
  • Technological University of Panama (El Dorado, Panamá)
  • The Manchester School of Architecture (Manchester, England)
  • The Pennsylvania State University (Centre County, Pennsylvania)
  • The University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona)
  • The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas)
  • United States Military Academy at West Point (West Point, New York)
  • Universidade Federal do Paraná (Curitiba, Brazil)
  • University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign County, Illinois)
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • University of Missouri-Columbia (Columbia, Missouri)
  • University of Portland (Portland, Oregon)
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison (Madison, Wisconsin)
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia)
  • Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia)
  • Western New England University (Springfield, Massachusetts)
  • Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)

The Future of Energy Efficiency in Off-site Construction

As we look forward on housing demand, how can we use what we’ve learned in energy efficiency over the years and apply it to the future of the building industry?
The Future of Energy Efficiency in Off-site Construction

When I take a look around the construction industry today, I admit I’m pretty surprised if a builder has not implemented some kind of energy efficiency standards into their building practices.  Of course, this was not always the case.  The emergence of many of the energy efficiency programs in the 80’s and 90’s were a direct result of the energy crisis in the 70’s.  Policymakers in Washington were motivated by a new level of environmentalism as efforts were made to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels.

A specific challenge drove the industry to work on solutions.

And even with the strides that have been made in the energy efficiency sector, it still remains far from perfect.  But that’s what progress is all about, right?  It’s solid, incremental changes, and constantly pushing the bar higher.

The most dire challenge currently facing the U.S. (and other countries around the world) is housing affordability.  Both in our inability to create it fast enough, and the inability to create it at an attainable cost for average income earners.  I’m not solely focusing on “low-income” housing, but it is alarming that over 11 million Americans pay more than half their salaries for monthly rent. This is an increase of more than 30% over the last five years.2

So what does all that have to do with energy efficiency?  Everything.  When you have a monthly housing budget that comes with an inconsistent energy bill, it can be unnerving.  Applying practical, energy efficiency standards helps make housing more attainable, but alone, isn’t enough to deal with the growing affordability gap.

Off-site construction methods (volumetric, panelized, etc.) have increasingly come into sharper focus as a viable solution for the housing attainability crisis.  But with that, we need to take what we’ve learned over the last 40 years in the energy efficiency sector and figure out how to utilize factory methods to make off-site constructed housing as efficient as possible.  And we need not stop at energy efficiency.  With factory methods, we have an opportunity to utilize technology, and its data, in a way that has never been done before.  For the foreseeable future, builders will be looking at HOW they build (off-site) relative to WHAT we build (energy efficient and sustainable products).  Off-site construction affords an opportunity to rethink energy efficiency.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) recently announced a 3-year project where they will be partnering with Factory OS (Mare Island, CA), Vaughan Buckley Construction (Philadelphia, PA), and Full Stack Modular (New York) to look at how to maximize energy efficiency in the factory process.

“As the emerging off-site modular sector continues to expand, we are seeking to embed energy efficiency and grid-interactive building concepts into the factory design, construction, and assembly process,” says Shanti Pless, Senior Research Engineer at NREL.  “We see a big opportunity to meet the challenges of affordability and low energy costs in the multifamily sector through the integration of high performance building strategies into the advanced building manufacturing industry.”

In addition to partner-factories, the project is also forming an Advisory Board whose purpose will be to provide guidance and technical support for the project as well insight and support for the development of modular industrialization standards that will be shared with other industry players.  Members of the Advisory Board will include players from technology integration, data/software, systems, building envelope, site assembly, automation/advanced manufacturing, codes, and standards.

If you’re interested in learning more about the project or the Advisory Board, contact or


1Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University 2017.