The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an academic competition of 10 contests that challenges student teams to design and build full-size, energy-efficient and solar-powered houses. The winning team most successfully blends design excellence, smart energy and water strategies with innovation and market potential. Open to the public on October 5 – 9 and 12 – 15, 2017 at the 61st Peña station near Denver, Colorado’s International Airport, the event also features a sustainability exhibition, professional and consumer educational workshops, middle school education events, and a Denver community festival.
The purpose of the Solar Decathlon competition is to promote the use of renewable energies through solar energy. The teams who participate in the competition have to build a house operated with the sun as its main source of energy. But the competition is not just about solar energy. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an intensive learning course for competing teams and visitors alike. The event is a live demonstration of the latest technologies and materials in energy- efficient design, clean energy technologies, smart home solutions, water conservation measures, electric vehicles, and sustainable buildings.

First held in Washington, D.C., in 2002, the Solar Decathlon has expanded to Africa, China, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East to involve more than 200 teams and 35,000 academic participants worldwide.

Solar Decathlon provides a unique hands-on experience and training to students preparing to enter the clean energy workforce, and renewable energy and energy efficiency education for the visiting public.

The Swiss team selected for the 2017 edition is made up of participants from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg (HEIA-FR), the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD) and the University of Fribourg (UNIFR). In the fall of 2017, the team will take its prototype to Denver, Colorado, where they will exhibit the design to professional juries and the general public.

After the competition, the solar prototype will be brought back to Fribourg where it will be adapted to merge into the city. This pilot program has been designed to be tested in real context.

Some examples of houses built for the previous editions



A jury evaluates architectural concept and design approach, the implementation of the design and its innovative features, and required documentation for the project.


Team houses must minimize the flow of cooled air in summer or heated air in winter to the outdoors, operate heating and cooling systems that keep temperature and humidity steady, all while maintaining healthy indoor air quality.


Teams design a primary residence for year-round occupancy for a specific target client. A jury evaluates the overall attractiveness of each team’s design to its selected target client and the market impact potential of the house.


Designed to mimic the appliance use of an average U.S. home, teams earn points for operating their refrigerator and freezer, washing and drying laundry, and simulating cooking tasks and hot showers.


A jury evaluates the engineering design and implementation of each team’s house based on the engineering approach, design, efficiency, and performance.


Teams are required to engage in common household activities that use electricity. They cook and share meals with friends and neighbors, watch television, use computers, and host game nights. And, for five days, they “commute” at least 25 miles in an electric vehicle charged by the house solar electric system.


A jury evaluates each team’s communication strategies, materials, and efforts to educate, inform, and interest the team’s local communities, visiting public at the event, and diverse online audiences.


New for 2017, a jury of industry professionals evaluates each team’s approach to water conservation, water use and reclamation, and landscaping water impacts.


New for 2017, a jury evaluates each team’s research, approach to sustainability, innovations for the target client, and durability and safety of innovative elements, while also evaluating whether the price is right for the target client.


The Energy Contest evaluates each team’s energy production and a theoretical value to a utility of the energy each team both contributes to and takes from the Solar Decathlon electricity grid. For the first time, this contest includes real-time energy pricing.