The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon - 2023 Build challenge


Creative Ideas Design Tech & IT

Location (s):

  • Online
  • United States of America
National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado


The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. 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, with student work culminating in April 2023 with the Solar Decathlon Competition Event at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.


The Solar Decathlon 2023 Build Challenge will be a collegiate competition, comprising 10 Contests, that challenges student teams to design and build highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy.

Participants design and build complete, functional houses in their communities to demonstrate creative solutions for real-world issues in the building industry. Teams will compete to earn points by operating their house successfully, and by showcasing the excellence of their solutions to industry expert jurors.

Through local exhibitions, teams are able to explain the importance of their innovations and solutions to a broad public audience. The competition and winners are promoted through a variety of media outreach efforts, which provide participants and their collegiate institutions an opportunity for national exposure.

Collegiate institutions that participate in the challenge are recognized as leaders in cultivating career-ready, young professionals with cutting-edge skills. Industry partners who collaborate with teams gain national and local recognition and have the opportunity to interact with knowledgeable future design and construction professionals.


Complete details will be available in the 2023 Build Challenge Rules. Below are the following key milestones for the 2023 Build Challenge.

  • July 2021: The 2023 Build Challenge Rules released, and Team Applications open.
  • October 2021: All Build Challenge participating teams must complete the Team Application. All teams with a complete Team Application are accepted to participate.
  • Fall 2021 to Spring 2022: Webinars and building science trainings are offered.
  • April 2022: Teams participate in Solar Decathlon Competition Event to determine which teams receive prize funding and an approval-to-proceed to the next 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 will be announced.

Opportunity is About:


Candidates should be from:

Description of Ideal Candidate:

Developing a Team

Each team must be associated with at least one collegiate institution and include a Faculty Lead. The competition is open to all collegiate and degree-issuing institutions, including technical and community colleges.

  • International institutions are welcome to participate.
  • Each team often has more than 60 students participate (though not necessarily simultaneously), whether supporting design, fundraising, marketing, construction, or presentation, with several students designated as student team leaders.
  • Teams are encouraged to be multidisciplinary.
  • Multiple collegiate institutions may combine to form a team.
  • A collegiate institution may submit only one team application to the Build Challenge (see Section 3, Project Requirements).
  • The team application costs $100 per team and is nonrefundable.
  • If a collegiate institution has multiple teams competing in the Solar Decathlon, across the Design and Build Challenges, each team must have distinct designs and must have unique team leads and team members.
  • Team members who are not a U.S. citizens and would like to participate in person at the Competition Event activities held on the NREL campus, must submit a Foreign National Data Card. Additional information and requirements are provided upon registering on the Project Site. These requirements are subject to change, and NREL will follow the latest federal guidance.


Deadline: October 19, 2021

Cost/funding for participants:

Prize Structure

To help increase the likelihood of success for Build Challenge teams, DOE will offer prize funding for up to 20 teams. Teams are selected for prize funds via the process outlined in the Approval-to-Proceed Procedures, which are available on the Solar Decathlon website. Evaluators determining whether or not a team receives Approval to Proceed and a prize disbursement are separate from NREL staff, DOE staff, contest jurors, and the adjudication of these rules. Overall, the winner of the Build Challenge is the team that earns the most points at the end of the competition from the 10 Contests.

  1. Up to 20 teams that successfully complete their house design and complete construction will earn a financial award, likely $50,000 per team.

  2. Prizes are expected to be distributed in two disbursements, one following the completion of design and one following the completion of construction.

  3. Prizes are distributed by the organizers to a single entity and account, as directed by the team Faculty Advisor on official collegiate institution letterhead and signed by collegiate institution leadership. The official team Faculty Advisor must be identified prior to any award. Multiple recipients will not be accommodated.

  4. For U.S. teams, it is the sole responsibility of the team to determine any taxes or associated payments required as a result of this award. Foreign teams are subject to nonresident alien withholding of 30% under Chapter 3 of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. Chapter
    3). Tax withholding requirements are determined by the W8BEN-E submitted by the foreign entity that was certified by their authorized signer. Any distribution beyond the initial recipient is the sole responsibility of the team.

  5. Through participation in the competition, the team agrees to accept the decisions of the organizers. The results are final. No right to counsel is authorized.

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