Gov. Hickenlooper addressing the audience

Inside a nondescript tent in a field east of Denver, about 500 people gathered to kick off the 2017 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition. The competition requires college students to build full-size, solar-powered homes. Students in DU’s Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management are part of the UC Berkeley/DU team. Even though many of the students were exhausted as they worked feverishly up to the deadline, the tent was buzzing with excitement.

“I’m elated. I’m so happy,” said Brenton Kreger, a member of the UC Berkeley/DU team. “In my eyes, we’ve already won.”

Linda Silverman, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, explained that the 11 teams have spent nearly two years building energy-efficient houses. They’ll compete in 10 areas, including architectural design, water conservation, energy production and even communication strategy. Silverman announced that for the first time, students can win $300,000 for first place.

“You are problem solvers and you are our future,” she said.

That sentiment was echoed by Governor John Hickenlooper and Denver City Mayor Michael Hancock.

“Let some of the brightest and most motivated students show us how it can be done,” Mayor Hancock said. “We are proud to host this competition. We get 300 days of sunshine a year; there’s no better place to host this.”

The governor and mayor got a VIP tour of the UC Berkeley/DU home after the official ribbon cutting. Sam Durkin, a civil and environmental engineering student from UC Berkeley, toured the mayor through the UC Berkeley/DU home.

“Seeing his excitement was amazing,” Durkin said. “We know this house inside and out, but to see someone really appreciate what we did is great.”

Durkin admits, he’s relieved. It’s been a long journey for the team. The UC Berkeley team started this process two years ago. About a year into the process, they started looking for construction management help. That’s when DU’s Burns School students stepped in. The teams combined and built the home on the DU campus, collaborating on everything throughout the process.

“We completed construction on time. We’re stoked! Just being here is an accomplishment. Everything else is icing on the cake,” Durkin said.

UC Berkeley/DU is competing against 10 other teams—teams representing Northwestern University, UC Davis, University of Maryland, Wash U-St. Louis and the Netherlands.

The competition runs through Oct. 15 and is open to the public for free.

Thursday, Oct. 5–Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 9, 2017: 1–7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 12–Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

Scores and standings can be tracked on the Solar Decathlon website.