This story was originally published in Builder.

The Swiss Team took first place in this year’s U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon in Denver, Colo.
Dennis Schroeder Courtesy DOE/SLC

The Swiss Team took first place in this year’s U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon in Denver. The communal flex space, NeighborHub, was found to be the best blend of smart energy production, innovation, and market potential among the 11 entries. University of Maryland’s reACT home, integrating Native American environmental ethics, took second place, while UC Berkeley and University of Denver’s stackable multifamily design, RISE, finished third. Click here for information about each entry.

The student teams participated in a total of 10 contests over nine days, in which industry professionals evaluated each building’s performance, livability, and appeal. In a test of energy and water efficiency, students carried out everyday tasks within the homes, such as cooking and cleaning.

The Swiss Team took an unconventional approach to its Solar Decathlon design by creating a multifunctional community space instead of a traditional home. More than a sustainable building, NeighborHub promotes sustainable activities among residents of urban neighborhoods, providing space for educational workshops, community meals, local markets, and even bicycle repair.

The winning team is made up of 250 students from four Swiss schools and 150 supervisors from professional and academic sectors, who named their collaborative effort "The Swiss Living Challenge." The 44 team members attending the event had to scramble through construction, after Hurricane Harvey and flooding in the Port of Houston delayed one of their 12 shipping containers. Despite this setback, they pulled off first place in six out of the ten contests, sweeping the overall Solar Decathlon competition with a 50-point lead.

The 2017 Solar Decathlon teams were selected nearly two years ago through a competitive process, representing a variety of design approaches and building technologies. They targeted a broad range of individuals, including empty-nesters, low-income buyers, families recovering from natural disasters, and tribal communities.

The Solar Decathlon requires student teams to design, build, and operate full-sized, sustainable homes with an eye towards market potential. “This prestigious competition engages students from across the country and internationally to develop the skills and knowledge to become the next generation of energy experts,” says Linda Silverman, event director. “Together, we’re ensuring that employers have the qualified workers they need to support American job growth.”

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