Solar Decathlon 2015

September 19, 2014
The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universität München (TUM) develop an innovative house and energy design for entry into the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
"Under the Roof" Team design concept for UT-TUM SolarD entry.

Last February, it was announced that The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universität München (TUM) were partnering to develop an innovative house and energy design for entry into the Solar Decathlon (SolarD) 2015 competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. This initiative is a multi-faceted effort between the UT Austin School of Architecture and Cockrell School of Engineering, and the Technische Universität München of Munich, Germany, which culminates October 2015 in Irvine, California, in a juried competition or measured performance in ten critical areas. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

Since the announcement, UT and TUM students and faculty advisors have been busy! Former UT faculty member Dr. Werner Lang led a design studio at TUM. Lang's students started with the competition entry that the joint UT-TUM team submitted in January and further developed and refined the original proposal. That studio conducted a survival-of-the-fittest design process with the students starting off working individually. Then, as the strongest design concepts were selected throughout the studio, the students combined into teams developing the best ideas.

In mid-July, the studio held a high-profile final review, which included, among others, architect Hermann Kaufmann; Cradle to Cradle co-author Michael Braungart; as well as co-faculty advisors Michael Garrison, Dr. Petra Liedl, Adam Pyrek; and alumnus Michael Gatto [M.Arch. '05], Executive Director of the Austin Community Design & Development Center. Instructed to vote on their top three designs, the jurors unanimously selected the same three: Hellen Awino’s proposal [B.Arch. '14] and two proposals by TUM student teams.

Since mid-July's final review, the team in Austin has been working to harmonize the three designs into a single consolidated design as they prepare for the upcoming Design Development deliverable due to the U.S. Department of Energy on October 9. As part of the preparation and research, SolarD team members Kathleen Hetrick and Charlie Upshaw (Engineering), and Coleen Gentles, Alexandra Krippner, and Ryan McKeeman (UTSOA) met with experts on aquaponics, food policy, and residential water systems design.

This fall, Dr. Petra Liedl is leading a design studio at TUM that includes 12 students from UT Austin who will be spending the semester in Munich: Chiara Bonsignori, Julian Debo, Lauren Jones, Alexandra Krippner, Ariel Padilla, Julia Park, Michael Rahmatoulin, Megan Recher, Alison Steele, Andrea Tosi, Miren Urena, and Henry Wen.

Simultaneously, Lecturer Adam Pyrek is leading a Solar Decathlon seminar at UT with an additional 12 students: Anthony Abousleiman, Gitanjali Bhattacharjee, Kendall Claus, Charles Farmer, Aaron Hobbins, Jessica Janzen, Cheng Jia, Peng Ju, Ryan McKeeman, Nari Shin, Hayley Smith, and Charles Upshaw.

This is an exciting time for the team as they work together to address important issues facing the built environment in Central Texas, such as energy, water, food, and urban density. Please follow their progress on the UT-TUM SolarD website:

Members of the UTSOA community can support the team in a number of ways, including in-kind donations of materials and equipment, monetary contributions, and professional advice. To make an online gift, visit For information on sponsorship, please contact Ryan McKeeman at