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Stevens Tech: Storm-Resilient, Energy-Generating SURE HOUSE

In October 2012 the  Hurricane Sandy caused over $68 billion dollars in damage, killed over 280 people and damaged or destroyed almost 350,000 in New Jersey alone.  Hurricane Sandy has redefined what it means to live along the shore today.

A team from Stevens Institute of Technology, situated in Hoboken, N.J. , wanted to design a house that not only reduces its energy use but adapts to the realities of a changing, more extreme climate. The SURE HOUSE, conceived as the “Coastal Home of the Future,” is  now a prototype for coastal homeowners in search of a sustainable, attractive and more storm-resilient building.

“This project was about creating a real, livable residence for families in coastal communities who will be hardest hit by the effects of climate change,” said A.J. Elliott, a graduate student in the Stevens Product Architecture and Engineering program and member of the SURE  HOUSE team. “Our design provides a blueprint for the construction of homes that can endure extreme weather and epitomizes the principles of sustainable living.

The SURE HOUSE prototype addresses indeed the need for sustainable, resilient homes, especially,  in communities along the New Jersey and New York shorelines. The home’s  resilient systems offer not only the reassurance of having a minimally damaged home after a storm event, but one that can act as an emergency community hub, providing emergency electricity for its neighbors.


Simple and effective solutions 

The SURE HOUSE home is based on three simple primary concepts: first it uses less energy through smart design, next it generates all the energy needed from renewable solar electric, and finally it ensures that the home is capable of providing resilient power during electrical outages.

By increasing the insulation levels, rigorously air sealing the envelope, using high-performance glazing and heat-recovery ventilation  the heating and cooling energy needs of our home can be reduced by 90%. These simple design measures, when coupled with high-efficiency appliances, lighting and hot-water mean that SURE HOUSE needs only a tiny fraction of the energy that a ‘typical’ home would.The SURE HOUSE’s rooftop solar array provides enough power to supply all of the home’s energy needs over the course of a year.  The SURE HOUSE will also feature custom Building Integrated Photovoltaics on the storm-shutters which are capable of producing up to 70% of the home’s hot-water, replacing cumbersome and expensive solar-thermal systems with an elegant electrical PV solution. The home is also able to ‘island’ itself from the electric grid, becoming an emergency local power station in the event of another natural disaster.

Coastal Home of the Future

The team consisted of more than 30 graduate and undergraduate students from across Stevens Institute of Technology. They were named the winner of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California for the overall design, construction and sustainable operation of the SURE HOUSE, coming out on top in 7 or 10 categories.




About Anne Irene Leino (8 Articles)
Anne-Irene Leino is a freelancer writer based in Helsinki, Finland. She is interested in sustainability, recycling and waste management, and energy efficiency. She covers clean technology in Europe, including R&D advances in Russia.

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