Zero Energy Design Designation recognizes schools for sustainable building curriculum


Buildings play a significant role in reaching the goal of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. To help train a workforce to design and construct high-efficiency, low-carbon buildings powered by renewables, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) created the Zero Energy Design Designation (ZEDD) to recognize academic programs that prepare students for 21st century building careers.

“Building professionals have to be prepared to design and construct high-efficiency, low-carbon buildings that are powered by renewables,” said Jaime Van Mourik, DOE lead for the ZEDD program. “ZEDD recognizes institutions that are preparing students for 21st-century buildings careers.

The designation highlights schools that demonstrate a three-year commitment to preparing students for a zero-carbon future by offering a building science education curriculum within their programs of study. The curriculum must showcase best practices in zero energy design and must include a zero energy design practicum. To be recognized, schools must show that their program(s) of study require at least one of the following options:

Building science education curriculum:

Option 1: Solar Decathlon Building Science Education learning modules

Option 2: School-created building science education program

Zero energy design practicum:

Option 1: Solar Decathlon Design and/or Build Challenge through final submission

Option 2: A zero energy building design project meeting DOE Zero Energy Ready Home certification or more stringent

Schools interested in earning the ZEDD designation can view the 2023 ZEDD webinar below. The webinar is intended to help potential applicants prepare to apply in the spring of 2023.


2022 ZEDD programs

The 2022 ZEDD cohort includes 17 programs of study from 12 institutions around the world. Howard University’s Master of Architecture with an Equitable High-Performance Energy Design Concentration was among the 2022 cohort. Nea Maloo, assistant professor of Architecture created the course to meet the ZEDD curriculum requirements.

“We got the ZEDD designation and interest has grown so much,” Maloo said. “We had two entries in the (Solar Decathlon) competition, and it’s part of a class now, so students are getting credit. Having ZEDD has helped me as a professor to create new opportunities for students.”

The Solar Decathlon is an international collegiate competition that challenges students to create efficient, affordable buildings powered by renewable energy, while promoting student innovation, cross-disciplinary education, and real-world training for a variety of careers. 2022 marked marked its 20th anniversary, which has involved more than 25,000 students in sustainable building practices.

DOE is seeking applicants for the 2023 ZEDD cohort. The online application is open through July 7. For questions about the program or application process, email

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