Race to Zero Student Design Competition 2017

Submission: April 04, 2017
Registration: November 01, 2016
Language: English
Location: Golden, CO, USA
Prizes: N/A
Type: Student Competition


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Race to Zero Student Design Competition (Race to Zero) inspires collegiate students to become the next generation of building professionals prepared to meet the growing imperative for environmentally responsive buildings. Specifically, this competition will help provide future architects, engineers, construction managers, and entrepreneurs with the skills and experience to fully integrate building science in ultra-efficient buildings. After all, building science is vital to whether buildings will work or fail. That’s why, as part of DOE’s Building America and Zero Energy Ready Home programs, the Race to Zero is also designed to advance and enhance building science curricula at collegiate institutions.

The students who have participated in past competitions have exceeded all expectations by bringing exceptional energy, creativity, and practicality into their designs. Students partnered with a variety of local builders, architects, home energy professionals, and nonprofit organizations to grapple with the same challenges our nation’s builders face daily—affordability, comfort, health, durability, disaster resilience, and marketability.


A Zero Energy Ready Home is a high-performance home so energy-efficient that a renewable energy system can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption. The program builds on the comprehensive building science requirements of the latest ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes Version along with proven Building America innovations and best practices.

For the Race to Zero, teams may develop projects based on updates of house plans from builders or work from conceptual approaches to the design competition. Teams may also take advantage of opportunities to work on redevelopment projects to complete building retrofits. Eligible scenarios are varied, and the submission must conform to the conditions in Section 2. The mandatory minimum design target is the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Requirements (Rev. 05). Teams must demonstrate the effective integration of building science principles and best practice guidelines for the building envelope and mechanical systems.


The Race to Zero is comprised of four design contests. Each collegiate institution may submit one entry per contest.

In the project report, each team defines a specific location, building lot, and neighborhood characteristics as context for the house design and its relationship to surrounding homes and the community.

Projects must conform to one for the four contest definitions indicated below as measured using ANSI Z765-2003, which states that the finished square footage is the sum of finished areas measured at floor level to the exterior finished surface of the outside walls.

1. Suburban Single-Family (SSF) a. Size: 1000–3000 ft2
b. Lot: 4000 ft2 minimum

2. Urban Single-Family (USF) a. Size: 600–2500 ft2
b. Lot: 5000 ft2 maximum

3. Attached Housing (two- to six-units, duplex or townhouse style) (AH) a. Size: 500–2500 ft2
b. Lot: 3000 ft2 maximum per dwelling unit

4. Small Multifamily (three or fewer stories above-grade) (SMF)

  1. Size: 350–2000 ft2 per dwelling unit
  2. Lot: no minimum or maximum.

A dwelling unit, as defined by the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, is a single unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation.


Below are key dates for the 2017 competition.

  • June 30, 2016 – Release of 2017 Race to Zero Competition Guide and team application opens.
  • November 1, 2016 – All teams must complete the team application and are encouraged to submit a 3-page design concept.
  • July 2016 to February 2017 – Webinars and building science training available.
  • February 28, 2017 – The deadline by which teams must complete the Project Progress Report. Also the deadline by which student team members confirm completion of Building Science Training.
  • April 4, 2017 – The deadline by which teams must upload their final Project Report Submittals.
  • April 22-23, 2017 – Invited teams compete with presentations to industry leaders at NREL.


Projects submitted to Race to Zero will demonstrate competency by applying principles of building science and best practice solutions. The teams will be assessed on their project report submissions, including the design and technical documentation, project plans, reports on required analyses, and the quality of their project presentations. These submissions should demonstrate the teams’ ability to design, analyze, and plan for the construction of quality, high-performance homes that meet or exceed the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home requirements.

The jurors will evaluate how well teams meet or exceed the contest evaluation parameters and complete the requirements of the project submittal.

The project submissions will be evaluated by jurors in the following 10 parameters. Jurors will score each parameter of the contest on a scale of 0 to 10, which add up to the 100-point total.

Go to the competition’s website