CABE Joins International Team in the Solar Decathlon China Design Challenge

Their sustainably designed structure built near the Winter Olympics is currently ranked 2nd in a field of 15.

With the 2022 Winter Olympics in full swing, a team from the College of Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has one eye on the athletic competition and the other on a unique collaboration which saw them design a 1,600 square-foot structure for the ongoing Solar Decathlon China design challenge.

In 2021, 11 students in associate professor Kihong Ku’s Design 9 and 10 architecture studios worked diligently in the competition centered on green buildings and solar energy technology applications.

Their creation—for which they teamed up with peers from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and the Zhejiang University-University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Joint Institute—was initially intended to be displayed with 14 others in Zhangjiakou, China for judging last October. However, COVID restrictions forced postponements and delays.

Solar Decathlon China
The fully solar-powered house demonstrates cutting-edge sustainable design and architecture architectural techniques.

While the structures won’t be judged until later this year and most of the team has since graduated, their collective vision has been built and speaks to international cooperation on a quest for clean-energy solutions. It’s currently ranked second among the finalists.

The fully solar-powered house demonstrates cutting-edge sustainable design and architectural technologies.

It features relatively low-carbon construction materials such as bamboo, a living plant wall and roof area for insulation and air filtration, an augmented reality-enhanced workspace, a solarium equipped for indoor gardening and energy-saving strategies.

Solar Decathlon China
The team's design has already been constructed, along with 14 others, but judging will not happen until later this year.

“The exposure to new technologies and ways of thinking that expand problem-solving abilities is an advantage,” says Olivia Birritteri, a 2021 graduate of CABE.

“We took an initial concept that at first did not seem plausible and then rapidly prototyped and tested our ideas until we could make them real. That was exciting,” she continues.

Though the judging will not take place during the Games as competitors had hoped, the structures stand near venues hosting the biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and other ski events.

Other finalist teams in the Solar Decathlon China include universities from Poland, France, Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany.

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