Since 2015, PPI's Building & Construction Division (BCD) has been a proud supporter of the Department of Energy's Race to Zero student design competition. The Race to Zero was an annual competition, open to students from any interested collegiate institution. The competition was based upon a real-world scenario where a builder is developing a new high performance home product line or needs to update an existing product line (house plan) to a high-performance house design. College teams are posed with a design problem and are asked to either create a new house design that satisfies the project requirements or redesign an existing floor plan. The mandatory performance target was the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home specification.

Starting in 2019, the Race to Zero was merged with the DOE Solar Decathlon as the Design Challenge event. According to DOE’s website, “Qualifying teams complete a design project and attend the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend, where they present their designs to a panel of industry expert jurors, compare their projects to those of other teams, learn from presentations by thought leaders and collegiate peers, and engage with a variety of organizations about energy careers. Winning teams are recognized at an Awards Banquet, and winning project presentations are published on the website. https://www.solardecathlon.gov/event/challenges-design.html

Buildings in the United States represent 40 percent of our country’s total energy consumption and 70 percent of our electricity use, so there are many opportunities to utilize existing technologies in smart ways to reduce energy costs. At these events, we see future architects and engineers collaborate and compete to design houses and buildings that are so energy efficient that their annual energy use can be offset with renewable energy.

Supporting these design competitions is part of PPI’s focus on sustainability, energy efficiency, and quality of life.

PPI encourages design teams to incorporate innovative plumbing and mechanical systems to improve the health, safety and welfare of building occupants and the efficiency of buildings. This includes technologies such as hydronic radiant heating and cooling, ground source geothermal, hot- and cold-water plumbing using plastic piping solutions, and fire protection for occupant safety. These systems can benefit the entries in practically all categories of scoring, including energy performance, engineering, architecture, market appeal, financial affordability, operation, comfort & environmental quality, and innovation.

Read more about each year’s competition below: