A Win for Sustainable Homes

August 3, 2015
Graphical representation of sustainable home competition winner

In most contexts, a "race to zero" isn't an aspiration, but in a worldwide competition to design a house that uses no energy—and is affordable—zero nets the top prize.

In the Race to Zero competition, University of Minnesota students' design for sustainable homes to fill vacant lots in economically challenged North Minneapolis won top honors among 33 teams from 27 universities around the world. The criteria: along with being energy-efficient, the homes had to be comfortable, attractive, and affordable.

The U of M team designed a home with high-performance features that sharply reduce energy use and allow for most of the remaining energy use to be offset with renewables.

The team wanted a site that would have a positive impact on the North Minneapolis community, so they chose a vacant lot in an area hit hard by the foreclosure crisis followed by a series of tornadoes in 2011.

Now the team is partnering with the City of Minneapolis and others in an initiative to build 100 energy-efficient homes in the North Minneapolis over five years.