Interior rendering of 2016 Race to Zero team design

2016 DOE Race to Zero Competition

The PHRC supported the “SMART START Homes” student design team to compete in the 2016 US Department of Energy (DOE) Race to Zero Student Design Competition. 31 teams from 25 schools across the United States and Canada competed in the 2016 competition, which was held April 16-17, 2016 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO.

The competition challenges and inspires students to design an affordable, net zero energy home that meets DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home guidelines. This year’s design concept was created in collaboration with the Union County Housing Authority to develop designs for owner-occupied, high performance townhomes for the Authority’s Penn Commons development in Lewisburg, PA.

The resulting design was a two story, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,400 ft2 per living unit net zero energy townhome design, and included innovative features such as an “Airbnb” space to help residents offset their mortgage payments. Each townhome also has a solar photovoltaic system that produces 100% of each home’s energy onsite, significantly reducing the residents’ annual utility bills.

This year’s team was led by Chris Hazel (Masters of Architecture) and system project managers: Cansu Tari (Masters of Architecture), Jean Laurent (M.S. Architectural Engineering), Reza Foroughi (PhD Architectural Engineering), Ehsan Kamel (PhD Civil Engineering), Niloofar Nikookar (Masters of Architecture), Selby Niumataiwalu (Bachelors of Architecture), and Shunran Liao (Masters of Architecture).

The team received mentoring from industry partners Chad Owens of Timber Rock Homes and Jordan Robb of Envinity, Inc., and faculty members Professor Lisa Iulo (Associate Professor of Architecture, Professor Andy Lau (Associate Professor of Engineering Design), Dr. Somayeh Asadi (Assistant Professor of Architectural Engineering), and Dr. Jiro Yoshida (Assistant Professor of Business).

2020 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge

2017 Race to Zero Competition image

2017 Race to Zero Competition image

2016 Race to Zero Competition image

2015 Race to Zero Competition image

2014 Race to Zero Competition image



The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center serves the home building industry and the residents of Pennsylvania by improving the quality and affordability of housing.

We conduct applied research, foster the development and commercialization of innovative technologies, and transfer appropriate technologies to the housing community.

Pennsylvania Housing Research Center

219 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2341

Fax: 814-863-7304