Every other year, collegiate teams from across the country partake in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon with the challenge of designing a fully solar-powered home that fuses style, efficiency and affordability. For more than 30 students at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, though, those requirements were just a starting point.
Entering the national competition for the third year, the Stevens team set out to design a home that’s not only sustainable, attractive, and cost-effective, but resistant enough to withstand severe storm conditions. The result: the SURE HOUSE, a new kind of shore home that could resist up to five feet of flood waters, survive a two-week blackout and stand the test of hurricane-strength winds—all while maintaining its attractive, contemporary design.
The contest submission was inspired by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, which directly impacted many of the students involved with the project.
NRG Home Solar teamed up with Stevens to support the SURE HOUSE’s solar panel array, which meets 100% of the home’s energy needs. With a total of 32 solar panels, the home produces nearly 9 kW from its rooftop and another 1.8 kW from panels on the storm shutters, which are wired directly into the hot water tank. On a sunny day, the shutters can generate about 70% of the home’s water heating needs.
“We envisioned a home for the New Jersey shore—communities on the leading edge of a coastal climate change. In this context we challenged the student team: ‘How can a house be a good neighbor?’” said Chris Steffens, project faculty. “The SURE HOUSE is efficient, durable, and resilient—producing as much energy as it consumes, innovating new flood proofing techniques, capable of sharing power and hot water with neighbors during a grid outage.”
Harnessing the Sun, Even in a Storm
Even in the event of a blackout, the SURE HOUSE still draws on its solar energy. In place of a common diesel generator, a backup energy source with transformer-less inverters kicks in to produce 3,000 Watts from solar power—completely off the grid. Occupants can then charge their devices with clean energy, keeping them connected and informed in emergency situations.
“It is really establishing a new precedent for construction in this day and age,” said A.J. Elliott, an Electrical Engineering student on the SURE HOUSE team. “Sustainability is a critical pursuit we must undertake, but people are also starting to concern themselves with building a home that can stand up to harsh weather; the SURE HOUSE meets these sustainable and resilient needs.”Sustainability Meets Style
Though inspired by the quintessential 1960s beach cottage, the SURE HOUSE’s features are fit for the 21st century family. The 1,000-square-feet of interior space—complete with a bright kitchen, open layout and two bedrooms—is matched with another 1,000 square feet of deck space for outdoor lounging and entertaining.
Countless other innovations are packed between the SURE HOUSE’s walls and even under the kitchen island. Charging stations built right in to the counter charge multiple devices at once while a computer dashboard stationed in the wall feeds homeowners pertinent energy usage data.
The SURE HOUSE team is now in Irvine, California to compete in the Solar Decathlon October 8-18. Best of luck to the Stevens Institute team as they showcase all the innovation, passion and hard work they’ve poured into the project over the past year! Follow the team’s progress on Twitter @SureHouseSD and the decathlon action @Solar_Decathlon.