You are here

Three Principles of a Sustainable, Resilient Home

Oct 2015

If you wanted to build a sustainable and resilient coastal home, what would it look like? That’s the question a multidisciplinary team of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology are exploring as they begin to build a fully-solar powered home as their entry into the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial solar decathlon.

Called the SURE HOUSE, for SUstainable and REsilient, the home is being built around three core principles: energy efficiency; fully solar powered; and a resilient energy hub.

90% Less Energy Use

SURE HOUSE focuses on simple, effective solutions to reduce energy consumption, including increasing insulation levels, rigorously air-sealing the envelope, using high-performance glazing, and heat-recovery ventilation to reduce the heating and cooling needs of the house by 90 percent. These sample design measures, when coupled with high-efficiency appliances, lighting, and hot water heaters mean that the home will use only a time fraction of the energy of that of a “typical” home.

Fully Solar Powered

SURE HOUSE’s rooftop solar array will provide enough power to supply all of the home’s energy needs over the course of a year. By prioritizing energy conservation through smart design, they’re able to dramatically reduce the total size and cost of the system while still delivering a reliable, comfortable, and economic system. SURE HOUSE will also feature custom building-integrated photovoltaics on the storm shutters that are capable of producing up to 70 percent of the home’s hot water, replacing cumbersome and expensive solar-thermal systems with an elegant electrical PV solution.

Resilient Energy Hub

The SURE HOUSE storm shutter system ensures the home’s safety during seasonal storms and hurricanes. The multipurpose storm shutter doors protect the house against additional loads experienced during intense storms while providing shading on sunny summer days and maximizing winter solar gains. In addition to protection, the shutters deliver emergency power with inverter-less DC photovoltaic panels capable of providing electricity as well as hot water when the power grid is down.

The SURE HOUSE’s resilient systems offer not only the reassurance of having a minimally damaged home after a storm event but also that the home can act as an emergency hub, providing emergency electricity for neighbors.

“The side of the house will include a number of USB outlets so that neighbors and community members can come by and recharge their portable devices,” says A.J. Elliott, a graduate student in electrical engineering who serves as the spokesperson for the SURE HOUSE.