Project Overview

Weber State University (WSU) is a Top 10 Finalist in the 2020 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon collegiate competition to design and build a Net-Zero energy home. Students from the Department of Construction & Building Sciences make up the senior project team representing the programs of Building Design & Construction, Interior Design, and Construction Management.  Our team is currently in the process of constructing the all-electric home they designed in collaboration with Ogden City at 2807 Quincy Avenue. The 2,540 total square foot home (1270 on main and 1270 full finished basement) incorporates portable battery backup technology to allow the home to maintain critical loads for up to 72 hours if the electrical grid were to be down in a natural disaster or emergency. Not only will the Solar Array generate enough energy to offset the energy usage of the home annually, it will also generate enough electricity to charge an electric vehicle to travel 20 miles per day.
The lot was donated to the project by Ogden City to show their commitment to revitalizing neighborhoods and breathing new life into historic districts. This particular lot has been empty for nearly 10 years after a dilapidated 4-plex was torn down. The Craftsman Architectural Style home is designed to not only nestle in nicely with other homes on this historical avenue and showcase how homes can provide a net-zero energy lifestyle.

The home is designed to make the “True Cost of Ownership” affordable to occupants of the east bench sector of Ogden by nearly eliminating all energy bills. It is estimated that the energy costs to operate the home will be just over $100 annually or around $9 per month to be connected to the electrical grid. The electrical grid essentially acts like a battery. Excess energy not being used by the home during the day or on sunny day is put back on the grid for other neighbors and businesses to use, then the reverse is true when the home requires more energy than the solar array is producing, such as in the evening or on shady days. The net result of energy export and import is net-zero annually. The home showcases technology such as Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC, Air Source Heat Pump Water Heating, and Energy Recovery Ventilation to keep the super insulated and airtight home continuously sourced with fresh pre-conditioned air. 

The building envelope of the home showcases off-the-shelf solutions that requires the super-efficient HVAC to only heat or cool the air within the home less than once an hour where most new homes today require the air to be conditioned 4-7 times per hour.  The WSU team loves to use the phrase “Build it Tight, Ventilate it Right”. Their secret weapon is a new product they refer to as “magic fairy dust” or Aerobarrier that will allow them to seal the home much tighter than is required by current energy code. The foundation is built with Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) that have an effective R-Value of 45-55 and the main floor walls are panelized Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) that have an effective R-Value of 27-29. The roof utilizes Raised Heel Energy Trusses to allow the full depth R-49 insulation in the attic to be extended all the way out to the edge of the exterior walls. This helps to maintain conditioned air inside the home as well as prevent the leading cause of ice dams on homes in Utah.

The WSU team has chosen to follow the Department of Energy’s Net-Zero Ready Homes Certification Checklist. To ensure they are surpassing these guidelines and being as energy efficient as possible, they are using the Home Energy Rating System. The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is measured. It's also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home's energy performance. A certified RESNET Home Energy Rater assesses the energy efficiency of a home, assigning it a relative performance score (the HERS Index Score). The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home. The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index while a home built to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code is awarded a rating of 100. The WSU Solar Decathlon home has scored between 40-42 in the energy modeling phase depending on how much of the basement is finished which means it is 60% more efficient than homes built in Utah before March 2016.
Teams competing in the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge work during a two-year period to design and build their houses, culminating with the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge Event in Washington, D.C., summer 2020. Participants design and build complete, functional houses to demonstrate creative solutions for real-world issues in the building industry. Teams will compete and exhibit their solutions before panels of industry expert jurors in Washington, D.C., as part of the 2020 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Select top-performing teams will also be invited to exhibit at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builder’s Show in 2021. The teams for the 2020 Build Challenge are:

•    Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
•    Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas
•    Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Valparaíso, Chile
•    University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
•    University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
•    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
•    University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
•    University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
•    University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario
•    Weber State University, Ogden, Utah