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Ball State ECAP Participates in Solar Decathlon Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy’s prestigious Solar Decathlon Build Challenge competition (SDBC), now in its 20th year, invites student teams from around the world to design and construct a net-zero energy home with the help of local community partners and sponsors. The Solar Decathlon includes both a design phase to develop innovative net-zero energy solutions, and a later build/construction phase to demonstrate compliance with measured competition criteria and to showcase the home.

A net-zero energy home is one that makes at least as much energy onsite as it uses on an annual basis and is the pre-eminent model of green residential design in the world today. The Ball State student-designed Solar Decathlon Build home, called the “Alley House,” is an affordable, two-family project located in Indianapolis’ Near Eastside.

Who is participating in Ball State’s Solar Decathlon student team?

The student team includes approximately 100 undergraduate and graduate students in Ball State’s Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning (ECAP). By design, the multidisciplinary team includes students from five ECAP programs: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning, Construction Management, and Interior Design.

What is Ball State’s past success in the Solar Decathlon?

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Ball State has a longstanding involvement with the Solar Decathlon program since collaborating with the University of Louisville on a Build Challenge project in 2013. From 2017 to 2022, the college has engaged over 25 teams in the Design Challenge winning six international awards. Beginning in Fall 2021, Ball State again entered the Build Challenge for 2023. In April 2022, the student team competed with 28 national and international Solar Decathlon Build teams and was one of 14 teams awarded a Proceed to Construction and $50,000 of funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) for the construction of the “Alley House.”

Who is Ball State’s community partner?

The student team’s community partner is Englewood Community Development Corporation (CDC) with Gratus Development of Indianapolis the construction management team for the build of Englewood Homes. The “Alley House”, one of the 20 duplex homes that are part of the Englewood Homes project will be constructed on a vacant, infill lot at 201 North Temple Avenue in Indianapolis. Englewood CDC has catalyzed neighborhood groups working together to revitalize the Near Eastside of Indianapolis, an area that has experienced significant disinvestment, and to imagine a flourishing future. It strives to create vitality and walkability, maintain a diverse population, and provide equitable housing, educational, economic, and leisure opportunities for residents through management of affordable housing buildings, economic development activities, public parks and spaces for residents, and comprehensive planning activities.

Englewood CDC has experience designing and building net-zero energy buildings as part of its portfolio and has supported neighborhood professional partners that work in sustainability areas, such as Jefferson Electric, a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer. Together with Gratus Development, Englewood CDC recently secured $8 million funding in low-income housing tax credits for Englewood Homes, a 40-unit affordable housing development on 20 scattered infill sites. “Alley House” net-zero energy home, will be one of the 20 duplex projects constructed.

When will construction begin?

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Construction is expected to begin in early July 2022 and will be complete in early April 2023. K.P. Meiring is the general contractor for the Englewood Homes project. Dan Porzel of Cedar Street Builders is working with Ball State students and faculty on the design and construction of the Alley House.

When the Alley House is complete, Ball State students will host in-person and virtual tours, digital activities, and site visits to effectively communicate the design strategies for a net-zero energy home and inspire professionals, industry leaders, and the public at-large to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities.

How does the Solar Decathlon help students in design and construction fields and Ball State?

ECAP is committed to providing students with both knowledge and practical experience in net-zero, green, affordable housing design concepts, methodologies, materials, and technologies. Working with community and industry partners allows Ball State to provide students with hands-on, experiential learning to increase their skills and facilitate their entry into the professional workforce and perhaps to be high-performance building leaders and advocates in their careers.

The Solar Decathlon also allows Ball State to contribute to community engagement and improvement efforts outside its campus and promote its degree programs in design fields on both national and international stages.

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How does the Solar Decathlon impact professionals in design and construction fields?

The Solar Decathlon competition leverages work by students and universities to inspire the building industry to incorporate sustainable building practices and materials as well as provides students with opportunities for real-world, hands-on learning in preparation in sustainability-related careers.

How can your organization support the student team in the Solar Decathlon?

Sponsorship, donations, and contributions from community organizations and industry groups/professionals is critical to the success of Ball State’s Solar Decathlon entry. As such, Ball State sees a number giving opportunities that will benefit the construction including cash, materials, labor, and professional expertise.

How will you and your organization be recognized for your contributions to Ball State’s Solar Decathlon team?

  • Gold: Your name will be placed on a plaque displayed outside the house and at CAP on the Solar Decathlon Donor Wall. You will also be formally acknowledged with a special invitation to the Open House.
  • Silver: Your name will be placed on a plaque displayed outside the house and at CAP on the Solar Decathlon Donor Wall.
  • Bronze: Your name will be placed on a plaque displayed on the CAP Solar Decathlon Donor Wall.
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Who are the Faculty and Administrative Advisors for the student team?

  • Pam Harwood, Tom Collins, Dan Overbey – Department of Architecture
  • Chris Marlow – Department of Landscape Architecture
  • Donna Browne – 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

What does the funding look like so far?

  • 2022 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon award for the Alley House
  • 2022 Community Block Grant for the Alley House
  • 2021-22 Ball State Immersive Learning Provost Grant – Pilot Project
  • 2022-23 Ball State Sustained Immersive Learning Grant – 3 years
  • College of Architecture and Planning Solar Decathlon Foundation
  • Englewood Community Development Corporation Tax Credit Funding

Who can you contact for more information about the Alley House and the Solar Decathlon competition?

  • Pam Harwood, Department of Architecture:, 765-749-6379
  • Tom Collins, Department of Architecture:, 617-721-8713

Photos courtesy of Samantha Blankenship

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