U of M students win awards for sustainable and affordable housing

U of M students win awards for sustainable and affordable housing

U of M students win awards for sustainable and affordable housing

The University of Minnesota is celebrating an international achievement.

Students at the University competed in the solar decathlon — where people from all over the world submit building designs rooted in sustainability.

They walked away with several awards, including the top honor.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS’ Brittney Ermon spoke with the winners, who say their designs are the future.

One building in Minneapolis became the star of a project for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon — an international competition.

Students had to take an aging building — and give it a 21st-century makeover.

“It takes quite a bit of time and energy,” said Phoebe McCartan, a student at the University of Minnesota.

The building design has to have net zero energy by being equipped with features — like solar panels — that do minimal harm to the environment.

Out of over 100 teams nationwide — the student group took home the grand prize for their design.

“Everything that I’ve learned from this, that’s the real prize,” McCartan said.

“They put in thousands of hours of work, lots of passion, and they came out on top,” said University of Minnesota Professor Pat Huelman.

The inspiration for the second student award was in North Minneapolis, where efficiency was important, but so was affordability.

“That’s a need that we have seen in the community, and we wanted to address that with healthy buildings that have nontoxic materials that are high quality and net zero,” said Madeleine Hallberg of the Interior Design Program.

Hallberg was a part of another student group that took home a second-place award in the multifamily division.

Sustainability was top of mind when they designed this affordable housing model from scratch.

“The built environment and buildings have a really significant impact on carbon emissions and negative climate impacts,” said Hallberg.

The students call these designs a blueprint of what the future should look like.

“We really need holistic solutions and collaboration and forward thinking to really be able to solve climate crisis problems to really create spaces for families that are healthy,” Hallberg said.