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SPIE Professional January 2015

Solar Decathlon alumnus builds houses, career on experience

The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Winning teams blend affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

Ryan Abendroth, founder of Passive Energy DesignsSince 2002, the Solar Decathlon has involved 112 teams and influenced nearly 17,000 collegiate participants. Ryan Abendroth (pictured at right), founder of Passive Energy Designs (USA) — a company that consults on high-performing, low-energy buildings – credits his career to his participation in the Solar Decathlon 2009, an event he calls “transformative.”

Abendroth became involved with the Solar Decathlon while studying architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (USA). For the Illinois Solar Decathlon team, he performed energy modeling on Gable Home, which combined energy-efficiency practices and traditional building techniques and produced up to four times the energy it needed. The Illinois team won second place overall in the competition.

Gable Home — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Solar Decathlon 2009.
US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

“The experience did not just benefit my work, but it laid the foundation for all my work to come,” said Abendroth in an interview on the Solar Decathlon blog. Today, Abendroth uses his expertise to consult on energy-efficient buildings. To date, Abendroth has worked on more than 100 buildings to help others design and achieve ultra-efficient houses that are aesthetically pleasing and functionally livable.

In 2014, Abendroth joined the combined U.S.- German team of Rhode Island School of Design (USA), Brown University (USA), and Fachhochschule Erfurt (Germany) at Solar Decathlon Europe in Versailles (France) as an instructor and consultant.

“The camaraderie among the students both times I competed was excellent. We built lasting friendships and professional networks,” said Abendroth. “It’s not just about a competition but rather an investment into all of the decathletes, their futures, and the future of the building environment.”

Read more about the Solar Decathlon.

Photonics for a Better World

logo for Photonics for a Better WorldSPIE Professional launched its “Photonics for a Better World” series in the SPIE member magazine five years ago.

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Read more articles and blog posts celebrating the many ways that optics and photonics are applied in creating a better world at PhotonicsForaBetterWorld.org

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201501.13

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