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Team of Arch/AE students wins two excellence awards at 2015 Department of Energy Race to Zero competition

Penn State’s H4: Heritage Homes Team and its design concept “Heritage Homes: High Performance Living in Harmony with Community” strongly impressed the judges of the 2015 Department of Energy Race to Zero Student Design Competition at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado from April 18-20, 2015. Penn State was awarded top billing for two of the three excellence award categories: Design Excellence and Systems Integration Excellence.

The competition called for teams to meet the high standards of a DOE Zero Energy Ready Home in an inspiring challenge to “become part of a new leadership movement to achieve truly sustainable homes.”

Faculty advisor Scott Wing, associate professor in architecture, reinforced the interdisciplinary and extensive education benefits to Penn State’s participation on a simultaneously grand and local scale: "The Department of Energy Race to Zero competition provides an ideal challenge combining architectural design excellence with high performance building science expertise. Students from Architecture worked closely with their peers in Engineering to leverage the talents of both programs. The State College Community Land Trust challenged students to consider affordability both in initial construction costs and long term energy costs."

A total of 33 teams from 27 schools across the United States and Canada competed in the 2015 competition. Student Team Leader, Kyle Macht (first-year M.Arch; B.A.E./M.A.E.) and Student Marketing Coordinator, Chauntel Duriez (fifth-year student pursuing an integrated Masters in Architecture) represented the Penn State team. Lisa Domenica Iulo, associate professor in architecture and another head faculty advisor for the competition, lauded Macht and Duriez’s winning presentation in Golden, Colorado.

“Their chemistry, professionalism, and how they engaged with their audience was amazing. Many of those watching shared the confidence that the Penn State team would be successful based on their presentation.” – Lisa Domenica Iulo

The H4: Heritage Homes team was composed of more than thirty architecture and architectural and civil engineering students as well as Penn State faculty and staff, lead by:

Student Leaders

  • Team Leader: Kyle Macht, M.Arch student (M.A.E./B.A.E.)
  • Marketing Coordinator: Chauntel Duriez, integrated M.Arch/B.Arch student
  • Design Leader: Shivaram Punathambekar, M.Arch student, B.Arch
  • Sustainable Site Design Leader: Dario Vargas, doctoral candidate in Architecture
  • Energy Leader and Building Science Leader: Ehsan Kamel, doctoral candidate in Civil Engineering


  • Head Competition Advisor: Dr. Ali Memari, Hankin Chair Professor, Department of Engineering
  • Head Competition Advisor: Lisa Iulo, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
  • Head Competition Advisor: Scott Wing, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
  • Cost Management Advisor: Aidan Gilrain-McKenna, Bachelor of Energy Engineering Student
  • Marketing and Project Management Advisor: Sarah Klinetob Lowe, PHRC, Budgets and Publications Coordinator; M.S. Architectural Engineering

The team also enjoyed close guidance from practitioners from throughout Centre County who served as advisors. Duriez credited their success as a team to the wealth of leadership available: “All of our industry mentors and advisors were invaluable. Chad Owens (owner of Timber Rock Homes of Bellefonte, PA) was there almost every session, sometimes into the very late hours, sharing knowledge and being a friendly and supportive mentor. Sarah Lowe (Penn State M.S. Architectural Engineering ’09) from the PHRC was so instrumental in our project management and getting us to where we needed to be.”

The key stakeholders, members of the State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT) in their GREENBUILD initiative, participated in multiple design charettes leading to the final submission. The SCCLT challenged the team to not only consider the competition’s mandates but also design a home that will be constructed within close proximity to Penn State’s University Park campus.

As proud as the team is of their competition success, the hard work is still in progress. Students in the ARCH 497 Net Zero Housing class (a sub-group of seventeen students of the competition team) will present four design options to the SCCLT to evaluate and make final selections. The goal is that selected design options will serve as a prototype for additional affordable, sustainable housing solutions in the borough and beyond. Cost estimates, fundraising, and selection of a builder will follow. The team and their stakeholders anticipate this story as well as actual construction to develop over the coming few years.

The competition team was supported in great part by the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center (PHRC). The ongoing coordination with the SCCLT as the project moves to the next stage of development will continue to be supported by the Hamer Center for Community Design design-build arm, the Energy Efficient Housing Research Group.

Visit the DOE Race to Zero website:

Read additional project details at the PHRC website:


Two students holding award, flanked by advisors and competition staff
Students Chauntel Duriez and Kyle Macht standing in front of a presentation poster
Students and community members surrounding tables in a modern conference space