Four Ferris State University Architecture and Sustainability students collaborated on a first-place finish in the 2021 Solar Decathlon competition, an event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The winning entry in the Suburban Single-Family Housing design category was the work of Architecture and Sustainability juniors Tanner Fein, of Cheboygan; Jacob Hudson, of Alanson; Brooke Mehney, of DeWitt; and Ian Wardowski, of Sterling Heights. This entry was part of the junior-level Environmental Building Systems sequence taught by College of Engineering Technology Associate Professor Christopher Cosper.
“The range of the competition plays to our strengths at Ferris,” Cosper said. “Our architecture curriculum is designed to give students a broad foundation that embraces design skills, but not at the expense of technical skills, which are essential to the competition, and to our graduates when they enter the workforce.”
The “decathlon” aspect refers to the competition having 10 judged components in each project. These components include architectural design, engineering, market analysis and team presentation.
“Classes we have had on structure and environmental systems helped us develop a total design,” Mehney said. “A little bit of everything we have learned to this point went into our project.”
Fein credited the tools of technology Ferris has for architecture and sustainability learning as an essential element of their entry.
“I believe the graphics we were able to produce and present were very helpful to the success we had with our presentation,” Fein said. “This project made sustainable design more attainable.”
Hudson said the experience was fulfilling and valuable for him as he considers professional
“The best part was getting to apply what we have learned to ‘something real,’” Hudson said. “Now that I have been involved in ‘green’ building and succeeded at it, I feel I know what it will take to get the necessary certifications.”
Wardowski was the lead student on this winning team, which he felt was a valuable experience as he looks to his future.
“Leading a team of this size, I wanted to make sure that all of our work was done to the standards we had established among ourselves,” Wardowski said. “We followed through on those goals, with the work we put up. The Solar Decathlon has solidified my plans, as I want to design domestic and small-scale commercial buildings.”
A second Ferris team entered the Urban Single-Family Housing design competition and advanced to the last round. Three Ferris student Architecture and Sustainability teams participated in the Design Challenge category. Ferris received the “Impressive First-Time Team” award, based on the efforts of these teams.
This final round of the 2021 Solar Decathlon included 72 competing teams from 12 countries. Competing institutions included Harvard, Yale, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Oregon, which enjoys a national reputation for its focus on sustainable design.