green|spaces NextGen Home
The UTC Solar Decathlon team will travel to California next year to compete in the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon. The competition challenges architecture and engineering schools to design, build, and showcase innovative net-zero energy buildings with sustainable materials and technology.
Designing and building a net-zero house is no small feat, especially with the additional parameters the UTC Solar Decathlon team sets for itself.
"We are trying to balance technology and cost," says Dr. Sungwoo Yang, assistant professor in UTC's Civil and Chemical Engineering department and the founder of the UTC Solar Decathlon. "We do not want to make a building that is too expensive to build." So instead, Dr. Yang’s team is designing energy-efficient homes that can act as low-income housing in Chattanooga.
Dr. Yang’s team actively partners with the local sustainability nonprofit, green|spaces. green|spaces has offered technical assistance to the UTC Solar Decathlon Team over the last few years through their NextGen Homes project. The NextGen Homes are single-family houses that generate as much energy as they consume and use water and materials efficiently. The result is a living example of a successful net-zero construction project in the Southeast.
“We worked with Habitat for Humanity and EPB to develop Chattanooga’s first affordable net-zero energy home in 2019,” said Michael Walton, green|spaces executive director. “Now, we are excited to help the UTC Solar Decathlon Team carry the baton forward and research how to scale these strategies up so builders can make every home zero energy capable.”
Last month, the UTC Decathlon Team spoke with world-renowned sustainability architects, engineers, and consultants at green|spaces’ Regenerative Design Summit. By the end of the 2-day summit, many aspects of their low-income housing design had changed to have an even smaller carbon footprint.
The long-term vision for the UTC Solar Decathlon is for students, alongside mentors and sponsors, to build their designs in Chattanooga.
"I recognize that these days, there is a housing crisis all over the U.S. I created this Solar Decathlon Team at UTC because I want to create something like Habitat for Humanity but run by UTC students."
The team will set off for Orange County, California, next October (2023) to build their energy-efficient house, which may, eventually, be the new model for low-income housing here in Chattanooga.