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Prairie View A&M University Architecture Students were honored for Design Excellence in the Race to Net Zero Competition.

Over several months, students had to redesign a floor plan or create a house design to meet the competition’s home energy requirements. The final portion of the competition ended at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, where the students presented their designs. The judges included home builders, building science professionals, building product manufacturer technical experts, and national laboratory research scientists.

A zero energy ready home is so energy efficient it can offset all or most of its energy consumption with renewable energy. This significantly reduces a home’s annual electricity costs while improving comfort, health, safety, and durability.

“Our project was very well received by the jurors and the audience,” said Prairie View A&M University Assistant Visiting Professor and faculty lead for the project, Dr. Shelly Pottorf.

“We took on a very challenging problem -well above and beyond the competition requirements – and it did not go unnoticed. Nichole and Jonathan did a great job presenting. The entire team did an amazing job in all of the work that went into it,” Pottorf said.

Prairie View A&M University Race to Zero Team Members included team leader, Nichole Thomas, Jonathan Ortega, Christopher Brown, Ismael Kabre, and Tzivan Vasquez.

The Race to Zero is an annual competition, open to students and faculty from any interested collegiate institution. The competition is based on a real-world scenario, where a builder needs to update a product line (house plan) to a high-performance house design or is developing a new high-performance home product line.

Department of Energy Zero energy-ready Model Home

The competition is intended to inspire next-generation architects, engineers, and construction managers, to apply the latest building science innovations in new and existing buildings.

The Awards recognize students who excel at integrating building science principles into designs for zero energy-ready homes including creative solutions to real-world problems. Criteria for recognition included adherence to the Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home program criteria, clear project plans, and competency in applying best practices from the department’s Building America program.



Each year, DOE sponsors the Race to Zero Student Design Competition as a means to engage students, and university faculty to become part of a new leadership movement to achieve sustainable homes.


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