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The Superstorm and the Solar Home

Jun 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.

A multidisciplinary team of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology has set out to build a different kind of coastal home. The SURE HOUSE, designed to be sustainable and resilient, will be solar powered and use 90 percent less energy than the average home. The students’ goal is to create a model for building sustainable, resilient housing in coastal communities.

“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 serves as the spokesperson for the SURE House.

In addition to Elliott, the SURE HOUSE team includes graduate students from the Product Architecture and Engineering Departments and undergraduates in Mechanical, Civil, and Electrical Engineering; Computer Science; Engineering Management; Business; and Arts.

Building 100-Percent, Solar-Powered Homes

The SURE HOUSE is one of 17 entrants selected to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial solar decathlon. The solar decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winning team will be the one that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

New for 2015 is a requirement that teams factor in the energy used in one’s daily commute. Participating teams will need to drive an electric vehicle 25 miles a day (200 miles total for the length of the competition), recharging it each night from their house. That energy use will be factored into their home’s overall sustainability as teams work toward achieving net-zero emissions. Charging a BMW i3, the car of choice for the SURE HOUSE, will equate to about one-third of the house’s total energy consumption.

The Stevens Institute of Technology has participated in the solar decathlon in the past, including placing fourth in 2013. The 2015 solar decathlon will take place October 8-18 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

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