Energy Department Announces Winners of 2015 Race to Zero Student Design Competition

The Energy Department announced winners of its second annual Race to Zero Student Design Competition, a collegiate competition engaging university students to design zero energy-ready homes. A zero energy-ready home is a high-performance home that is so energy efficient it can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption with renewable energy. This significantly reduces a home’s annual electricity costs while improving comfort, health, safety, and durability.

The awards recognize students who excel at integrating solid 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’s Zero Energy Ready Home program criteria, clear project plans, and overall competency in applying best practices from the Department’s Building America program. Top priorities for each entry are geared toward developing cost-effective, market-ready, zero energy-ready homes.

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. A major goal of the competition as it grows in popularity is to advance building science curriculum in university programs across the country. Competing undergraduate students, graduate students, and university faculty are at the forefront of a leadership movement to design truly sustainable homes.

This year’s competition featured 33 teams from 27 universities. Over the last several months, students were tasked with redesigning an existing floor plan or creating a new house design to meet the competition’s cost-effective, high-performance home energy requirements. The final portion of the competition concluded at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, April 18-19, as the students presented their innovative designs to a panel of national experts. These experts included leading high-performance home builders, building science professionals, building product manufacturer technical experts, and national laboratory research scientists.

Eighteen awards were given in five categories:

Grand Winner

  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Grand Winner Finalists

  • Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
  • Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport, Williamsport, Pennsylvania
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign–Team Illinois, Champaign, Illinois

Analysis Excellence

  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Ryerson University–Team DAS Haus, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

Design Excellence

  • Penn State University, State College, Pennsylvania
  • Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas
  • Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science–Team Provenance Lane,  Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science–Team Øzone,  Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • University of Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada

Systems Integration Excellence

  • Illinois State University–Team Redbird Red, Normal, Illinois
  • Penn State University, State College, Pennsylvania
  • Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science–Team Øzone,  Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

The Department also announced it will hold the 2016 Race to Zero Student Design Competition next April at NREL. View the list of winners or visit the program website to learn more about the competition.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) works with private industry, universities, and national laboratories to accelerate the development and facilitate deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Visit the Building Technologies Office website to learn more about broader efforts to help new and existing homes across the United States achieve cost-effective, energy-saving solutions.

Test your knowledge: The Secret Life of Electronics

How much do you know about the natural and human resources invested in your favorite electronic device? This learning module, developed by the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, covers the design, manufacturing, consumer use, and disposal/recovery of our electronic gadgets. You can also test your knowledge by taking a quiz.

Women of Distinction 2015: UI prof took unconventional path

Read the full interview in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette.

Do not come to Ashlynn Stillwell’s class expecting lots of techno-jargon.

Oh, she knows her technical stuff. But Stillwell, a University of Illinois professor of civil and environmental engineering, also knows how to keep things lively.

Here’s her take on water resources: “The amount of water on the globe is fixed. We don’t think about it that way. The water I use to make my coffee might have been dinosaur pee.”

Several months shy of her second anniversary as a UI professor, Stillwell already has won research and teaching accolades and is one of five Women of Distinction being honored this week by the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois.

Job announcement: Assistant Project Manager for Environmental Dashboard

The Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College invites applications for “Assistant Project Manager for Environmental Dashboard”. This is a full-time, one-year, non-continuing, grant-supported position with the potential for renewal. The hire will assist in development, management, assessment and communication related to “Environmental Dashboard.” This novel technology combines environmentally and socially contextualized real-time feedback on resource consumption and environmental conditions in buildings and cities with pro-environmental images and text drawn from community members (see The goal is to develop, test and disseminate this as a technology and approach that enhances “systems thinking” and pro-environmental identity and that can be adopted by communities throughout the United States.

The incumbent will assist in all aspects of project management including overseeing students workers, coordination among community partners (including public school teachers, city government, businesses and non-profits), assisting in curriculum development (K-12 and college level),  managing the website, assisting in research, representing the project and coordinating participation from other communities.

Important skills and experiences include excellent oral and written communication, project management, web management, strong computer aptitude, and a demonstrated interest in promoting environmental sustainability.  Exceptional organizational skills and a high level of responsibility are essential.

Review of applicants will begin April 30 and will continue until the position is filled. The position will begin on August 1, 2015. A complete job description including instructions for applying is posted at:

Captain Planet Foundation Offers Grants for Hands-On Environmental Education Activities

The mission of the Captain Planet Foundation is to promote and support high-quality educational programs that help children and youth understand and appreciate our world through hands-on learning experiences aimed at improving the environment in their schools and communities.

Grants are intended to serve as a means of bringing environment-based education to schools and inspiring youth and communities to participate in community service through environmental stewardship activities. The foundation will fund unique and innovative projects that do not precisely match the grant guidelines but otherwise promote the foundation’s mission to advance hands-on environmental activities.

The foundation makes grants to schools and nonprofit environmental and educational organizations in the United States with annual operating budgets of less than $3 million.

Preferential consideration is given to requests seeking seed funding of $500 or less and to applicants who have secured at least 50 percent matching or in-kind funding for their projects. (Projects with matching funds or in-kind support are given priority because external funding is a good indicator of the potential for long-term sustainability of the activities.) The foundation will on occasion consider grants of up to $2,500.

Apply here.

Life on Public Lands Photo Mission

During National Environmental Education Week 2015, April 19-25, the public is invited to participate in a national photo mission to capture snapshots of wildlife, plants and other organisms that share our public lands.

  • All submissions are welcome and anyone can get involved.
  • With so many public lands to choose from and so many organisms to photograph, they will help give participants some direction by introducing a new optional theme challenge each day.
  • Participants are asked to enter the name of the public land site where each picture was taken as either the location or as a note in the upload process so that they can see not only the diversity of all the different organisms out and about during EE Week but of all the public lands we share as well.

Your chances to win

At the end of each day the mission is active, organizers will be selecting a photo that best captures the theme for that day along with two honorable mentions. All three selections will be featured on and through EE Week social media accounts.

  • Each day, a $10 REI gift card will be awarded to a participant who best captures the theme for the day!
  • At the end of the week, EE Week will award aBirkSun Solar Backpack to one participant who has shown particular dedication to the mission based on the number of different organisms photographed, number of public land sites represented, and overall quality of submissions.



Everyone who participates in the EE Week mission and submits at least 1 photo during EE Week will receive a Project NOAH virtual mission patch in recognition! This exclusive patch will only be available to those who participate in this EE Week mission.

To join the mission, you will need to sign in to Project NOAH. This is free and easy and you sign in and begin uploading spottings anytime (and continue after the mission is over!).

2015 EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study

Open date:  April 8, 2015  –  Close Date: May 26, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces the posting of the Request for Applications, 2015 EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study with the goal of offering Graduate Fellowships for master’s and doctoral level students in environmental fields of study. Subject to availability of funding and other applicable considerations, the Agency plans to award approximately 55 new fellowships in the Fall of 2015. Master’s level students may receive a maximum of two years of support ($88,000). Doctoral students may be supported for a maximum of three years ($132,000), usable over a period of five years.

Supporting these fellowship grants is in line with the Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Research Program. EPA’s SHC Research Program provides useful science and tools for decision makers at all levels to help communities advance sustainability as well as achieve regulatory compliance. SHC is collaborating with partners to conduct research that will result in science-based knowledge to guide decisions that will better sustain a healthy society and environment in America’s communities.  The research is intended for decision-makers at the federal, regional, state and community levels.