Stevens Students Build, Donate House
School builds energy-efficient house for national competition, will donate to Habitat for Humanity
One low-income, single-parent family of four living in Washington D.C. will soon own a new, affordable home thanks to some innovative students from the Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Stevens students partnered with students from the Milano and Parsons schools of the New School in New York to enter the bi-annual Department of Energy sponsored Solar Decathlon competition, for which they designed and built an energy efficient house.
The schools showed the house to the public during a reception on Tuesday at its construction site on Sinatra Drive near Sixth Street.
The students will donate the house to Habitat for Humanity, which has already arranged to sell it at an affordable price to a family living in the historic Deanwood neighborhood in the northeast corner of Washington.
Kent Adcock, president of the Washington Habitat for Humanity chapter, attended the reception and called the house cutting-edge.
“It's the most innovative concept that I can see possible to make energy efficient home ownership affordable,” he said. He added that the house would save the family nearly $2,000 per year on energy costs.
The students began designing the home in 2009 and passed two application stages.
“We wanted to try to get in with a conceptual idea of how to build an affordable and energy efficient house,” Stevens student Erich Rau said.
Having started construction in May, the students will soon disassemble the nearly complete 860 square foot house and transport it to Washington. In September the house will stand in the national competition judged by Department of Energy experts against entries from 19 other schools.
Though they want to win, those involved in the project said the competition is not the most important part.
"This project is successful regardless of the competition," Joel Towers, Dean of the Parsons school said. "It's overwhelming that this will culminate in a home for a family."
The house currently includes one bedroom designed for a child, with another mixed-use space tailored for an adult, plus a combined kitchen and living room area, bathroom, laundry and hall closets. The house is one floor according to competition rules, though after the competition the students will move it to Deanwood and add a second floor with two extra bedrooms. Eventually a second three-bedroom home mirroring the first in energy efficiency will be built using a shared wall, providing a home for a second family.
The house is retrofitted with technology and appliances that allow it to achieve Passive House standards, considered the highest efficiency rating possible, by essentially recycling spent energy. The house includes solar panels and ventilation to trap heat already being emitted and circulate it for further use.
“This technology is not only for the wealthy. It's available and affordable now for all socio-economic levels,” Rau said.
Many of the appliances were purchased in stores such as Home Depot. The total cost of the house is estimated to reach $250,000. The Stevens and New School students covered expenses through existing resources, grants and fundraising.
New Stevens President Nariman Farvardin said that this is the fifth Solar Decathlon he's been involved with, the first four coming during his tenure at the University of Maryland. He said the competition was an ideal way for Stevens to contribute outside of campus.
“Universities have a significant responsibility to address the needs of society,” he said, citing the role academics could play in tackling complex issues like climate change.
As one of those academics, Rau said the experience working on the house was gratifying. A senior when the project started, he has remained involved after enrolling in graduate school.
“I've always wanted to do something like this that would help people,” he said.