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The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art’s Solar Decathlon team received the Excellence in Industry Engagement “Smooth Operator” Award at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2022 Multifamily Design Challenge competition for their submission in which they re-envisioned JCJ Architecture’s design for Barrier Free Living’s Freedom Village. Architecture and engineering undergraduates at The Cooper Union participated in a series of design reviews with members of the JCJ team and the Barrier Free Living Development Team (BFL & Urban Builders Collaborative), with JCJ advising and offering expertise on sustainable and accessible design, as part of their process.

“We are so proud of the work done by The Cooper Union team and to have been a part of their success,” said George Chin, Senior Project Manager at JCJ Architecture. “It is exciting to see sustainable and accessible design rewarded in a competition of this scale. All the collaborators, especially the students at Cooper Union, went above and beyond in their efforts. It is inspiring to see the next generation of architects and engineers explore ways to push the boundaries of sustainability and emphasize inclusive design.”

Barrier Free Living (BFL): Freedom Village will provide temporary and supportive housing for adults with significant physical disabilities while furthering BFL’s mission of supporting individuals with disabilities to live dignified lives free of all forms of abuse and bias. The Cooper Union team selected this project due to its emphasis on sustainability and contribution to the conversation surrounding affordable housing. The project advanced the Cooper Union team to the finals at the National Renewable Energy Lab, where they competed in a hybrid format in the Multifamily Design Division in front of a panel of industry jurors. JCJ Architecture and Barrier Free Living partnered with the interdisciplinary team to provide design expertise helping the students impress the jurors in both the ambitiousness of the project and the level of technical analysis.

The Solar Decathlon competition organizers awarded the Cooper Union team the Excellence in Industry Engagement “Smooth Operator” Award, highlighting the team’s excellence, professionalism, hard work, and enthusiasm that were demonstrated by going beyond the required deliverables by working with JCJ and other industry experts.

“Our team of engineering and architecture students reimagined Freedom Village with an innovative hybrid cross-laminated timber and recycled steel superstructure, adding rooftop and façade-mounted solar arrays as well as variable refrigerant flow and ductless heat recovery systems to achieve a net-zero  sustainable, accessible, and affordable housing project,” said Melody Baglione, who is professor and George Clark Chair of Mechanical Engineering at The Cooper Union and served as the Solar Decathlon team’s faculty lead advisor. “We are so thankful for the generosity of the JCJ Architecture team who spent countless hours providing feedback and sharing their knowledge with our students as they completed their design project.”

About JCJ Architecture

JCJ Architecture is a forward-thinking and nationally ranked planning, architecture and interior design firm offering comprehensive services to clients in the civic, K12, higher education, gaming and hospitality sectors. Founded in 1936, the employee-owned firm’s mission is to provide innovative design solutions that enhance the environment, enrich people’s lives and help organizations succeed.

With a long-standing reputation for business acumen and project delivery excellence, JCJ focuses on bringing the qualities of adaptability, integrity, respect and collaboration to a design process that leverages the unique qualities and potential of each project. JCJ collaborates with clients across the United States from offices located in Boston, Hartford, New York City, Phoenix, San Diego, Tulsa, and Las Vegas. For more information, please visit

About The Cooper Union

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art ( is a distinguished private college of art, architecture, and engineering founded in 1859 by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper. From its beginnings, Cooper has been dedicated to the idea that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but also to civic virtue and harmony. Today, the school continues that tradition through a curriculum that focuses on helping graduates acquire technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice. The institution provides close contact with a distinguished, creative faculty and fosters rigorous, humanistic learning that is enhanced by the process of design and augmented by its urban setting in New York’s East Village.


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