Aiming for the sun: WSU chosen to vie for solar home prize

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

solar-decathlonPULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University students will design and build a solar home during the next two years as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition. For the first time, the contest will include $2 million in prize money.

WSU was one of 16 college teams from across the world chosen to participate in the 2017 competition, which requires students to plan and build a 600- to 1,000-square-foot home that receives all its energy from the sun. Darrin Griechen, a faculty member in the School of Design and Construction, is leading the effort for WSU.

The competition aims to increase public awareness of solar energy and inspire innovative solutions in ecological design.

WSU’s solar home from the 2005 contest on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“Our students will be working on our most critical challenges in smart and sustainable living while also gaining tremendous hands-on experience at designing and building for the future,’’ said Phil Gruen, director of the school. “WSU remains focused on our land-grant mission of training our students to solve these most important and real problems for the world.’’

WSU has a long history and expertise in electric power, advanced materials and smart systems. The team has had preliminary discussions about locating the home permanently within Spokane’s University District – a test area for Spokane’s larger “smart city” initiative.

Initial construction of the house is expected to be near WSU’s new PACCAR Clean Technology Building on the Pullman campus.

“We are perfectly positioned to design, engineer and build a home within this smart paradigm,’’ said Griechen.

WSU students from a wide variety of disciplines – including architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, construction management, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, communications, business and English – may participate in the project.

Student teams will participate in 10 events in the competition. The home will be judged on architecture, affordability, market appeal, comfort and energy use. The teams must commute with an electric vehicle using energy from their solar-powered home.

This is the second time that WSU has participated in the event, which started in 2002. In 2005, a group of students traveled to Washington, D.C., where their home was displayed on the National Mall.


Darrin Griechen, WSU School of Design and Construction, 509-335-8196,
Tina Hilding, WSU Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture communications, 509-335-5095,