Three years after Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the Jersey Shore, some areas are still rebuilding.
Stevens Institute of Technology, from Hoboken, New Jersey, has a plan to make future storms far less devastating, not just in New Jersey, but in all of the world’s vulnerable coastal regions.
A group of students from the university are behind SURE HOUSE, the concept home that won this year’s Solar Decathlon — the biannual competition put on by the US Department of Energy to give college students a shot at reimagining eco-friendly residential life.
The Stevens team wanted to make a house that could withstand the sudden and crushing storms that are becoming “the new normal” in coastal living.
They say their design is “hurricane-resistant,” complete with storm shutters made of composite foam and wrapped in fibreglass. The solar-powered home, which has a public USB charging spot outside, can also serve as a power hub for other homes in case of emergency.
“In 2015 we are finding climate change to be the major problem facing the world,” A.J. Elliott, a Stevens graduate student in electrical engineering, tells Tech Insider.
SURE HOUSE serves as just one solution, he explains. Its energy-efficient design can help reduce the effects of climate change and protect at-risk properties.
The team relied on the “passive house model.” Passive houses are built to maximise energy efficiency simply through the materials used and construction design. They are better at retaining heat and ventilating rooms, and they don’t require radiators or A/C units to do so.
SURE HOUSE features solar panels that can supply power to the house in the event of an outage, a lift mechanism that elevates the house during “periodic nuisance flooding,” high-performance windows, and a dual system of thick insulation and air-sealing to keep the house at a comfortable temperature.
Stevens Institute’s design earned 950 points out of a possible 1,000 in the competition. Over a nine-day stretch, judges evaluated each home based on its affordability, livability, and eco-friendliness. Teams performed daily activities like laundry, cooking, and dishwashing to demonstrate the design’s energy efficiency.
The State University of New York at Buffalo came in second, with 941.191 points, and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, came in third with 910.
Elliott says the team has no plans of manufacturing SURE HOUSE anytime soon, although the designs are freely available online. His larger hope is that designers and architects will be mindful of the greater impact their buildings will have years down the line.
“A big change that is happening to future designs and must continue to happen,” he says, “is reduction in energy use before implementing renewable generation, such as solar.”
In other words, sustainability shouldn’t just be a goal for the energy our homes consume. It should be a goal for the homes themselves. Years of devastation could be on the line.
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