In a world where the climate is anything but stable and energy conservation is on everyone’s mind, the U.S. Department of Energy challenges college-level design and build teams to create energy efficient, affordable and good-looking solar-powered homes in its Solar Decathlon competition. This year’s winner is SU+RE House, a project by Stevens Institute of Technology.
SU+RE House, also known simply as SURE House, uses 90 percent less energy, relies totally on solar power, and also acts as a community energy hub if there’s a power outage. This ambitious project blends aesthetics, storm resistance and a community-centric attitude in a simple beach house that transcends decades of coastal architectural styles.
Design Built on Hurricane Preparedness
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the New York and New Jersey coastline faced big problems and a bigger recovery time. That was the inspiration for SURE House. This design looks like it was born to the area in the 60s, or at least inspired by that era, but it’s all modern in every imaginable way.
At the forefront is storm resistance. For its simple design and relatively small size, at 1,000 square feet, this little cottage can take on the big storms of the east coast and stay functional and safe. When needed, the house seals up high as a drum with cider composite shutters, but Inhabitat says it’s without any sort of bunker-like feel. Instead, it’s cozy and laid back with ample natural light.
SURE House Runs on Solar
As a 100 percent solar powered house, SURE House keeps inhabitants comfortable even if there’s a power outage. Integrated with photovoltaic panels, it can generate all of its own power and can also dislodge itself off the grid as needed.
That’s another way that SURE house is different. When an outage happens, this bungalow is designed to be a “community base” where anyone can charge devices and keeping touch with the outside world until the grid comes back online.
Watch this video to see what makes SURE House so different:
Principles of SURE House
Stevens Institute of Technology says that SURE House is built on three concepts: Using less energy, generating the energy needed, and keeping energy flowing through outages. Those principles, says the team, guided every aspect of the design of this year’s competition entry.
With a tight building envelope that uses high-performance glazing and heat recovery systems, both heating and cooling needs are reduced by about 90 percent. Its rooftop solar array provides all of the power that the cottage needs, including hot water. And as a “resilient energy hub,” SURE House stays safe through hurricanes, even especially nasty ones, and provides emergency electricity to neighbors in the outages that usually come in the storm aftermath.
The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon began in 2002 as a program designed to educate students about clean energy opportunities, promote the benefits of energy efficiency in new home design, and offer students a unique opportunity to train for a changing workforce.
In that time, 130 teams have designed solar-powered houses, and the program has expanded to Europe, China, Latin America and the Middle East. The next decathlon is scheduled for 2017. For information about participating, contact the U.S. Department of Energy here.
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