A team of Virginia Tech students from across several disciplines was named the Grand Winner at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend in Golden, Colorado, April 12–14.

The TreeHAUS team, led by Zach Gould, a BioBuild Fellow in the university’s interdisciplinary graduate education program and a doctoral student in environmental design and planning, took first place in the Attached Housing Division and then was named best among all six divisions in the competition, which featured 45 finalist teams representing 37 collegiate institutions from the U.S. and other countries.

The team combined ecology and technology to envision is an affordable graduate student housing complex proposed as part of a live/work/learn village at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

TreeHAUS is a net-positive, regenerative attached housing project inspired by the way trees collect and distribute resources in the forest. TreeHAUS will harness energy from the sun and water from the rain, as well as cycle resources and information throughout its community in the same way that plants and trees do in nature. The goal of the project is to strengthen the surrounding environment and Blacksburg by imagining the house as a cooperative constituent of its contextual ecology.

Members of the team included students from architecture, building construction, civil engineering, computer science, construction engineering management, electrical engineering, landscape architecture, interior design, mechanical engineering, and real estate. Virginia Tech also had a team in the Office Building Division of the commercial project.

The teams were guided by faculty advisors Georg Reichard, an associate professor in building construction who has led several successful DOE student competition teams in the past, and Deidre Regan, a visiting instructor in architecture.

“I’m always excited to see our students perform and compete on such a high level while being passionate about their work and the impact it has on society,” Reichard said. “In the end, the TreeHAUS project not only drew from bioinspiration, but exemplified how bioinspiration relates to our educational mission. The seeds we planted years ago through engagement with our students have grown strong roots and branched out into many other disciplines. There’s nothing more rewarding for a faculty than to see the fruits of our educational groundwork come to life.”

Others who contributed to the project include:

Design: Jackson Reed, Jennalee Rowden, Alex Boardwine, Charlie Crotteau, Nicholas Van de Meulebroecke, Connor Leidner, Ian Edwards, Michael Darby, Thomas Gelb, Victor Zimbardi, Vidusha Sridhar, Nate Bennett, Mustafa Shafique

Landscape: Delie Wilkens, Alexander Arshadi, Amanda Hayton, Brooke Pagliarini, Owen Baylosis, Sam Snyder, Tess Reeves

Computer Science: Arjun Choudhry, Ikechukwu Dimobi

Engineering: John Hinson, Kewal Agarwalla, Young Kwang Ju, Michelle Baker, Sagar Karki, Racim Badsi, Tori Deibler

Business: Justin Gravatt, Alec Fong, Tolulope Adesoji

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