Solar Decathlon Expands, Bringing Zero-Energy Programs to High School Students and Mid-Career Professionals

June 6, 2022 | By Kelly MacGregor | Contact media relations

Graphic with two pictures with jagged edges, one of students visiting a Solar Decathlon house and one of an architect drafting. Text reads: “SD Pathways – Inspiring high school students to join the sustainable buildings industry” and “SD Pro – Training buildings professionals in zero energy design.”
Building on the inspiring interactions between Solar Decathlon teams and students, the new SD Professionals and SD Pathways programs will expand the Solar Decathlon's impact to more learners. Pictured here are high school students visiting the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park, Irvine, California. Photo by Thomas Kelsey, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

At the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® 2022 Competition Event, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm announced the launch of two Solar Decathlon workforce development programs to bring the collegiate competition's sustainable buildings expertise, experience, and mentorship into high school classrooms and architectural studios across the country.

Solar Decathlon Professionals (SD Pro) and Solar Decathlon Pathways (SD Pathways) will train professionals and inspire students to pursue careers in zero-energy buildings, preparing them to enter and thrive in this growing industry. Through these programs, Solar Decathlon will provide participants with opportunities to learn from some of the competition's most successful alumni, develop proficiencies in the latest sustainable building software platforms, and learn lessons that over 40,000 "Decathletes" gained from 20 years of designing and constructing zero-energy buildings.

"Solar Decathlon has always been about the students, and as we enter the competition's third decade, now is the time to expand our offerings to include more scholars—from high schoolers preparing to choose careers to practicing professionals who are ready to learn new skills," said Holly Jamesen Carr, director of the Solar Decathlon in the DOE Building Technologies Office.

SD Pro for Professionals

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon and the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Solar Decathlon Professionals (SD Pro) launches in July 2022 to train industry professionals interested in integrating zero-energy building techniques into their work.

"The Solar Decathlon is really a springboard to careers in clean energy," said Secretary Granholm at the Solar Decathlon 2022 Competition Event, "but we need to grow the ranks of big thinkers with bold ideas for new buildings that are energy efficient, affordable, and designed with our communities in mind. That's why we're partnering with the American Institute of Architects to launch the new Solar Decathlon Professionals Program, which is aimed at imparting practical experience with zero-energy building design to professional architects and engineers."

SD Pro is an opportunity for early- to mid-career design professionals to develop building science expertise, gain practical experience in designing zero-energy projects, and earn continuing education credits (CEUs). Industry professionals enrolled in the course will apply building science fundamentals to real-life projects, where they will be challenged to revise an existing building design to reach a zero-energy target.

The first 10-week course will be offered by the AIA in June. Learn about and express interest in an upcoming SD Pro cohort by emailing aiau@aia.org today!

SD Pathways for High School Students

This fall, Solar Decathlon Pathways (SD Pathways) will inspire high school students to consider pursuing clean energy careers by connecting them to the Solar Decathlon's extensive network of competition alumni. Alumni will work with students on activities related to the built environment and renewable energy, describe their own educational paths, and highlight career opportunities in the clean energy and high-performance buildings sector.

While speaking about SD Pathways, Secretary Granholm said she was "thrilled to learn about the new Solar Decathlon high school program, Solar Decathlon Pathways. There is no one better suited to inspire the next generation of Solar Decathletes than our alumni network, which is now 40,000 strong and spread all over the world."

If you are a Solar Decathlon alum or an educator interested in learning more about SD Pathways, complete the interest form. Alumni participating in SD Pathways will receive a small stipend for each classroom they visit, all while connecting to their community.

About the Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® collegiate competition prepares the next generation of building professionals to design and build high-performance, low-carbon buildings powered by renewables. The Design Challenge is a one- to two-semester design-only competition, while the Build Challenge is a two-year design-build competition. See how the Solar Decathlon engages with visitors through its Virtual Village.

Additional details are available on the Solar Decathlon website.