The House

The SURE HOUSE started with a simple question: how can we design a home which both reduces its energy use and adapts to the realities of a changing, more extreme climate. Our answer emerged as a new direction in storm resilient coastal housing. We merged the inherently efficient indoor/outdoor rooms and open floor plan of the quintessential 60’s style modern beach cottage with state of the art building science, the latest renewable energy technologies, and fiber-composite materials repurposed from the boat building industry. The result is a building armored against extreme weather that uses 90% less energy than its conventional cousins, powers itself through clean solar energy, and in the aftermath of a storm becomes a hub for emergency power to the neighborhood… all of this packaged as a comfortable, beautiful beach house.

  • 1. 90% Less Energy Use
  • 2. Fully Solar Powered
  • 3. Resilient Energy Hub
Sustainable: Radically reducing our energy use and  generating clear solar power. RESILIENT: Storm resistant construction, durable details and ‘off-grid’ power.

SUSTAINABLE

For us, sustainability in today’s world comes down to how much energy we use and how we make it. Why? If you think about it, sustainability simply means doing something in such a way that it can be repeated.

By that definition, planet earth is essentially a sustainable network, a complex matrix of inputs and outputs that work together in a self-perpetuating, repeating cycle. The fundamental system in the matrix is what we call “the climate”, a complex interaction of mechanisms including the hydrologic cycle, atmospheric gases, and the Sun which together maintain an amazingly small range of temperatures, wind speeds, precipitation, and other variables that make life here possible. Human input is changing the climate; and without a sustainable climate, everything else is up in the air. We simply have to fix that.

By minimizing our energy use through innovative/passive design and net producing more renewable energy than we use, we can help solve this problem. This is why the SURE HOUSE has been designed both to use a tiny amount of energy, 90% less than a conventional house built to US code, and to make that energy with a carbon-free source, the Sun. As a result, the house has a tiny carbon footprint, which in our minds is the only responsible way to build in today’s world.

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RESILIENT

Where sustainability is about repetition, resiliency is about adapting and absorbing. Here along the North-Atlantic seaboard, we’re having to learn to adapt to a changing sea-levels while also preparing to absorb the increasingly extreme storms becoming common to this region. At Stevens, on the banks of the Hudson River in Hoboken, NJ, we know about these impacts all too well. In fact, the building where the SURE HOUSE team is working was flooded during Super Storm Sandy and serves as a continual reminder of the consequences of climate-change.

The SURE HOUSE’s resiliency strategy is three-fold, first we designed a rugged solar photovoltaic system supplies all the power to the all-electric house… and when the grid is down, can keep supplying without the use of batteries. Second, we situated the home smartly, working with local topography such as dunes, raising the home slightly to avoid periodic nuisance flooding and encapsulating our vital building systems in a storm-resistant shell to protect them from flooding waters. And third, we design carefully with the Sun. The SURE HOUSE is thoughtfully composed and extensively simulated to maximize solar heat in the winter and maximize shading in the summer. The thick insulation and air-sealing mean that this home is much less sensitive to temperature swings outside and keeps the home clean, safe and comfortable no matter the extreme conditions outdoors.

At its core, the project merges Steven’s considerable building science, design, and environmental engineering expertise with the real world experience and needs of a region hit hard by Sandy. Taken together, these strategies make the SURE HOUSE a case study for a powerful resilient design strategy, one that fosters the symbiotic relationship between the scientific study of events like Superstorm Sandy and the development of engineering systems to solve real-world problems brought on by the realities of climate change.

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Engineering Innovations

The innovative engineering methods of the SURE HOUSE all share a common thread by responding to the need for sustainable, resilient homes along the NY and NJ shores.

Ultra-Low Energy Consumption

The SURE HOUSE redefines the notion of SUstainability by consuming up to 90% less energy than a typical home.

Highly Efficient Envelope

We are striving to achieve the most stringent energy efficient building standard in existence today – the Passive House standard.

Storm Resistant Construction

SURE HOUSE’s notion of storm proofing starts in the overall structure and works its way down to all of the details.

Storm Shutters

Our storm shutter system protects the SURE HOUSE against typical loadings as well as extreme loads experienced during intense storms. The multi-purpose shutters act as protection, a shading system, and as solar collectors.

Building Integrated Solar Panels

SURE HOUSE’s flood-resistant storm shutters are equipped with essential solar panels that collect sunlight when the shutters are open, collecting energy to power the hot water heater.

Resilient Hot Water System

Even when equipped with a roof full of solar modules to provide your home with energy, a severe weather event can disable the power grid infrastructure, preventing a grid-tied solar inverter from producing energy.

Resilient Power System

The SURE HOUSE solar-powered electrical system is resilient not only to storms and floods but the most common byproduct of the two – blackouts.

Durable Fiber-Composite Siding

Glass fiber composite structures have been developed in conjunction with storm resilient features in the SURE HOUSE.

Architecture

Architecture can be seen as fundamentally an act of balance. To balance the competing imperatives; that of our desire for openness and yet protection, visibility and yet privacy, innovation and yet reliability, performance and yet economy – the architecture of the SURE HOUSE must find a balance that delivers security, functionality, and delight... all within 1,000 square feet. Read More

Glossary

Adaptive Capacity

The ability of a system, process or object to change its characteristics to meet a drastic change in 'normal' conditions. At the crudest level, this is the SURE HOUSE’s storm shutters, which change their state to help the home survive the storm events. This can also be thought of as "what we are doing right now" - the actual... Learn More

Solar Heat Gain

The sun can provide almost all of the energy our buildings need if are smart enough to capture it. While thick insulation can keep heat from escaping from the SURE HOUSE, advanced windows can bring in as much free solar heat as possible. In the SURE HOUSE, the windows themselves are part of the heating system, bringing in more free... Learn More

Air Sealing

The floors, walls, roofs and windows of high-performance homes should be built air-tight in order to reduce uncomfortable drafts and the amount of warm air escaping the building in winter. This air-sealing has the added benefit of keeping hot humid air out during the long and sticky summer season. Air-sealed buildings still have... Learn More