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Solar Decathlon 2023 Build Challenge

Are you interested in designing and building high-performance homes in your local community that tackle climate change and promote environmental justice? Do you love the thrill of competing with and getting to know top students across the country and around the world? If so, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® is right for you!

U.S. Department of Energy

Type of Challenge: Software and apps, Creative (multimedia & design), Ideas, Technology demonstration and hardware, Business plans
Partner Agencies | Federal: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: The Solar Decathlon partners with building industry sponsors that provide technical support for project teams, invaluable jury feedback, and once-in-a-lifetime networking and talent recruitment opportunities for student participants. See more on the Solar Decathlon Sponsor page.
Submission Start: 06/15/2021 12:00 AM ET
Submission End: 10/26/2021 05:00 PM ET


General Overview

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® is a collegiate competition, ​comprising 10 Contests, that challenges student teams to design and build ​highly efficient, innovative, low-carbon buildings ​powered by renewable energy. The 10 Contests of the Solar Decathlon address building science, energy efficiency, occupant experience, community needs, affordability, resilience, and embodied environmental impact.

Teams competing in the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge work during a two-year period to design, build, and operate their houses in their own region. The 2023 Build Challenge consists of a design and construction phase. First, the teams design their homes through April 2022. The top 20 teams who are approved to proceed will complete construction activities through April 2023 with the support of $50,000 of prize funding.

During the Competition Event, teams will be evaluated on how well they meet the nation’s rapidly evolving demand for new and retrofit homes that are innovative, cost-effective, net zero energy, resilient, grid-interconnected, and efficient that respond to targeted community needs. Each home will be evaluated based on 10 Contests, some juried and some measured locally on the building site. Partnerships with building owners are also encouraged to develop energy-positive designs for real building projects across the country and around the world.

Key Dates

  • July 2021 – Build Challenge Competition Team Application opens; Rules released
  • September 16, 2021 – Ready, Set, Solar Decathlon Event (Virtual)
  • October 26, 2021 – Build Challenge Team Application due; All teams with a complete Team Application are accepted to participate
  • Fall 2021 to Spring 2022 – Webinars and Building Science Education offered
  • April 2022 – Build Challenge teams present their designs to a panel of industry experts to determine who will receive prize funding and an approval-to-proceed to the construction phase
  • Spring 2023 – Solar Decathlon Community Exhibitions, during which competing teams exhibit their as-built houses to their local communities, offering tours of the house, hosting educational activities, and verifying functionality as part of the measured contest activities
  • April 2023 – Solar Decathlon Competition Event with teams presenting to juries; Winners announced


Total Cash Prize Pool

Selected teams from the April 2022 Competition Event will receive $50,000 in prize funding to use towards the construction of their home.

Non-monetary Prizes

Winning teams are recognized at an awards banquet with hand-crafted trophies, and winning project presentations are published on the Solar Decathlon website. The competition and winners are promoted through a variety of media outreach efforts, which provide participants and their collegiate institutions an opportunity for international exposure. Collegiate institutions that participate in the Solar Decathlon are recognized as leaders who are producing career-ready professionals with cutting-edge skills.


Participants should review the rules and competition details, available at:

Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility criteria and competition details are available at:

Judging Criteria

Judging Panel

Teams will compete to earn points by operating their house successfully, and by showcasing the excellence of their solutions to industry expert jurors.

Judging Criteria

Project submissions are evaluated according to 10 Contests (4 measured, 6 juried) in the Rules. All Contests are equally weighted.

How to Enter

Entry Instructions

2023 Build Challenge Teams may apply and begin projects as early as July 2021. All teams that apply by the October 26, 2021 deadline will be accepted to participate.

For the application, each team:

  • Identifies a Faculty Lead, a student lead, and contact information for both
  • Pays a nonrefundable $50 application fee
  • Provides preliminary roster of student team members.

A summary of important competition and submission dates are outlined in the Rules.

Ready to learn more? Teams interested in participating should register for the Ready, Set, Solar Decathlon Event on September 16, 2021. Attendees will learn about the competition structure, resources including software licenses, Building Science Education credits, the Mentor program, stories from alumni, and a panel with experienced faculty sharing best practices. In the meantime, read about the Build Challenge on the Solar Decathlon website.

Submission URL

Teams can register to start their application and submit their deliverables on the Project Site.

Point of Contact

Have feedback or questions about this challenge? Send the challenge manager an email