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VI and Stevens Institute of Technology Showcased Sustainability and Resilience at the 2015 Greenbuild Expo

Dec 2015

When Hurricane Sandy blew across New Jersey in 2012, it caused over $65 billion in damages, including damaging or destroying almost 350,000 homes. Much of that destruction happened in the state’s famous shoreline communities.

Something had to change.

In response to the destruction, a multidisciplinary team of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology set out to build a different kind of coastal home. The students’ goal was to create a model for building sustainable, resilient housing in coastal communities.

Mission accomplished.

The SURE HOUSE was Stevens’ entry into the 2015 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Irvine, CA—and the collegiate team took home the grand prize.

As this year’s winning entry, the SURE HOUSE’s design bound the concepts of sustainability and resilience into a home that responds intelligently to severe storms, like Super Storm Sandy, which ravaged many of the coast communities in and round the Stevens campus in Hoboken, NJ.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves to build a house that was not only fully solar-powered, as required for the solar decathlon, but also able to withstand a storm comparable to Hurricane Sandy,” says A.J. Elliott, a graduate student in electrical engineering who served as the spokesperson for the SURE HOUSE.

The Solar Decathlon showcased innovations in sustainable building.

Fourteen universities from the U.S. and around the globe descended on Irvine, CA, earlier this fall to compete in the Solar Decathlon. The competition was the culmination of two years spent designing, building and operating solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The teams then transported their homes to Irvine, set them up, and competed in 10 competitions in 10 days ranging from affordability, engineering, and communications, to commuting, energy balance and home life.

The Stevens team’s sustainability strategy focused on reducing energy consumption first, before implementing solar technology. As a result, the SURE HOUSE uses 91 percent less energy than the average New Jersey home, is fully solar powered and flood-proof and serves as a resilient energy hub for the neighborhood during power outages.

In addition to taking the top honor, The SURE HOUSE placed first in six of the 10 categories (and tied for first in another), including architecture, engineering, and market appeal—all keys to going beyond a concept house to a home that builders can build and families can purchase and live in.

In announcing the news to the broader university community, Stevens Institute of Technology President Nariman Farvardin said, “Our stellar team of more than 60 students and faculty has approached this very daunting challenge by thinking and planning strategically, exhibiting creativity and innovation, working together as a team on engineering problems, architectural design, communications plans, fundraising, and more. They have worked tirelessly for nearly two years toward this achievement.”

SURE HOUSE combines great design with the right building materials.

To achieve the goal of creating a model for sustainable, resilient housing in coastal communities, the students needed both a great design and building materials that are durable and resilient. One of these materials is vinyl.

SURE HOUSE has a vinyl reflective roof, along with vinyl decking, vinyl cladding, and vinyl windows. In addition, there are PVC water pipes and vinyl wiring and cable insulation.

The Vinyl Institute sponsored the SURE HOUSE to highlight the role of vinyl in building and construction —including its durability, versatility, energy efficiency, and thermal efficiency.

“We are very proud of the Stevens team for their major accomplishment in winning the 2015 DOE Solar Decathlon,” said Dick Doyle, president and CEO of the Vinyl Institute. “Their focus on sustainable and resilient design and construction methods is a great example of innovation in housing for areas vulnerable to flooding.”