Grand Prize Winners in the 2019 Solar Decathlon Design Competition

Back: Team TreeHAUS (Sagar Karki, Arjun Choudhry, Zach Gould, Jack Reed, Alex Arshadi); Front: Team Eco-Graphio (Zahra Zolfaghari, Leen Hariri, Chiravi Patel, Dominick DeLeone, Cat Piper)

Teams competing in the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge develop creative solutions for real-world issues in the building industry. From originally more than 80 entries, 47 teams were selected as finalists in 6 divisions to attend the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend at NREL in Golden, Colorado. In the end, 45 teams presented their designs to a panel of industry expert jurors, compared their projects to those of other teams, learned from presentations by thought leaders and collegiate peers, and engaged with a variety of organizations about energy careers. 

Virginia Tech competed in two divisions, with the residential design project TreeHAUS in the Attached Housing Division and the commercial project ECO-graphi0 in the Office Building Division. Both teams were led by BEST-Lab students. TreeHAUS Student Lead Zach Gould is a doctoral student in Environmental Design and Planning (EDP) and a BioBuild Fellow in VT’s IGEP programs. ECO-graphi0's Student Team Lead was Dominick DeLeone, an undergraduate student double-majoring in Building Construction (BC) and Real Estate (REAL). The other team member backgrounds spread across a variety of majors and minors ranging from programs in Architecture, Building Construction, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Construction Engineering Management, Electrical Engineering, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, Mechanical Engineering to Real Estate. 

Both teams were guided by faculty advisors Georg Reichard (MLSoC), an Associate Professor in Building Construction, who has led several successful DOE student competition teams in the past, and Deidre Regan (A+D), a visiting instructor in Architecture, for whom this was the first involvement in this competition.

I’m always excited to see our students perform and compete on such a high level while being passionate about their work and the impact it has on society. There’s nothing more rewarding for a faculty than to see the fruits of our educational groundwork come to life. 

– G.Reichard

While the ECO-graphi0 project received good jury reviews, it was the TreeHAUS project, which became the talk of the weekend. TreeHAUS won not only the Attached Housing division contest itself but also took home the Grand Prize across all division winners. 

TreeHAUS convinced the jury with a vision at the intersection of ecology and technology. They leveraged ecological psychology, the influence of the environment on human behavior, along with digital tools to help our species live more lightly on this earth. The TreeHAUS is a net-positive, regenerative attached housing project inspired by the way trees collect and distribute resources in the forest. The goal of the project is to strengthen the surrounding environment and Blacksburg municipality by imagining the house as a cooperative constituent of its contextual ecology. The TreeHAUS will harness energy from the sun, harvest water from the rain, and cycle resources and information throughout its community in the same way that plants and trees do in nature. The design is envisioned as a residential building in a proposed Live/Work/Learn village at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC).

Travel support for two full teams was made possible by:

  • The Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience
    and Professor of Practice Enric Ruiz-Geli


  • The crowdsourcing efforts of our students through a JUMP campaign, which also provided funding for other project expenses


  • The Myers-Lawson School of Construction as a long-term supporter of the Solar Decathlon 


  • The school of architecture + design and their commitment to interdisciplinary student activities


Team "eco10ogic" members contributing to the TreeHAUS project

Student Lead: Zach Gould (EDP)

Design: Jackson Reed, Jennalee Rowden, Alex Boardwine, Charlie Crotteau, Nicholas Van de Meulebroecke, Connor Leidner, Ian Edwards, Michael Darby, Thomas Gelb, Victor Zimbardi, Vidusha Sridhar, 
Nate Bennett, Mustafa Shafique

Landscape: Delie Wilkens, Alexander Arshadi, Amanda Hayton, Brooke Pagliarini, Owen Baylosis, Sam Snyder, Tess Reeves

Computer Science: Arjun Choudhry, Ikechukwu Dimobi

Engineering: John Hinson, Kewal Agarwalla, Young Kwang Ju, Michelle Baker, Sagar Karki, Racim Badsi, Tori Deibler

Business: Justin Gravatt, Alec Fong, Tolulope Adesoji


Team "E²" members contributing to the eco-Graph10 project

Student Lead: Dominick DeLeone (Building Construction)

Design: Adam Alford (Urban Planning), Leen Hariri (M.Arch), Cat Piper, Martha Stevens (Landscape), Lelan Yung (Landscape), Zahra Zolfighari (M.Arch)

Building Construction: Grant Morrill, Chiravi Patel,


For more information on either project please visit the following sites:

Focus Area: