News + Updates
Stevens Institute of Technology celebrated the completion of the SURE HOUSE, an environmentally sustainable, resilient house for coastal communities – one that could better withstand a storm the size and force of Hurricane Sandy.
The SURE HOUSE will serve as Stevens’ entry into the 2015 Solar Decathlon, a biennial competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy which challenges teams from the world’s most prestigious institutions to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.
Stevens President Nariman Farvardin addressed a crowd of regional politicians, including Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, students and community members and explained how the team has taken the Solar Decathlon competition requirements a bit further.
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In October of 2012 Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the northeast coast of the United States. In New Jersey alone there was an estimated 29.4 billion dollars in damages, with 346,000 homes affected and almost 2.5 million people left without power. The destruction the Stevens’ community experienced here in Hoboken challenged us to respond positively in the face of this disaster.
Welcome to the SURE HOUSE, Stevens Institute of Technology’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 Solar Decathlon competition…
Even among ongoing construction in Hoboken, the little house on Frank Sinatra Drive stands out like a sore thumb.
For one thing, the structure sits in an empty lot at the tip of Castle Point, its only neighbors a low office building and the mighty Hudson River. Then there’s the layout—single story, raised on pilings, vinyl siding…and are those deck chairs?
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony this past Wednesday, the open secret of the Hoboken’s newest and most unique single-family home was finally revealed.
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Lots of houses nowadays are designed to minimize the amount of energy they use and to generate their own electricity. Fewer, though, are designed to withstand extreme coastal weather conditions as well. The high-tech and feature-loaded Sure House has been developed to do all of this.
The Sure house was designed by students at the Stevens Institute of Technology in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That hurricane damaged an estimated 350,000 homes in New Jersey, US, where the Stevens Institute is located, with many left uninhabitable.
Developed with support from the PSEG Foundation, the house is the Stevens Institute’s entry into the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. The contest challenges participating teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.
The Sure House, so-called as it merges the words SUstainable and REsilient, is described by the Stevens team as “a vision of a sustainable and resilient home for the areas at greatest risk due to rising sea-levels and more damaging storms.”
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SURE HOUSE students prepare flood proof sheathing to be installed over wall sheathing. The flood proof sheathing is an ABS Plastic which creates a continuous barrier around the bottom and sides of the home keeping our home waterproof to the desired design Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
Moxa is sponsoring Stevens Institute of Technology as it competes in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015, an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.
Moxa will provide its industrial hardened networking equipment to Stevens Institute of Technology students as they build their entry, Sure House, a sustainable, resilient house for coastal communities engineered in response to the 2012 Hurricane Sandy tragedy that took the lives of 158 people and caused more than $65 billion in damage. For example, Sure House will sit on a bed of pilotis (ground-level supporting columns) to slightly elevate it out of reach of flooding, plus have durable flood-shielding incorporated into the outer layers of the house to create a waterproof shell.
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When talking about climate change and the need to reduce emissions, living sustainably is key. So what do we mean by sustainably? While there are probably thousands of ways to define this word, the most relevant definition today is “without relying on the use of fossil fuels or other limited natural resources.” So how is the SURE HOUSE sustainable? We will use up to 90% less energy than a typical New Jersey home by adhering to the most stringent building energy standard in the world, the Passive House Standard. This low energy demand combined with our solar array will also make us a Net Zero energy user year round. Now that’s sustainable.
When most people think of a building with low-energy use they often think of the efficient technologies used such as LED lights, low-energy refrigerators or efficient dishwashers. While these things are an important part of the equation, there is no question that in climates with big temperature swings between seasons, such as the Northeast United States, the energy needed to heat and cool a building will always be its greatest single energy demand. Therefore reducing the need to heat and cool a home is the best way to cut down your overall energy consumption, and the best way to do this is to create a building that virtually eliminates the exchange of heat with the exterior climate and holds on to the energy used to condition the interior air. This is the idea behind Passive House and explains why one of the most important parts of this house is its insulation, the material that increases the thermal resistance, or R-Value of a wall, roof, or floor assembly.
In order to reach the Passive House Standard, an energy model of a building must be validated which calculates the yearly heating and cooling energy consumption based on local climate data and all of the specifics of the home. A very important part of this model is the thermal resistance or R-Value of the building envelope, the shell of the building that is in contact with both interior air on one side and exterior air on the other. These values are split up by surfaces, walls, roof, floor, windows and doors and your energy model helps you determine what values you need to hit to meet the Passive House Standard, often 1.5 to 2 times what is required by code. For the SURE HOUSE, we have designed our house to have an R-50 roof, R-37 walls, and R-30 floors. In New Jersey, code requires an R-39 Roof, R-19 walls and R-13 floors. These numbers were chosen because of the results from our energy model compared to the cost to insulate more. While insulating is cheap, there are diminishing returns the more you insulate. Therefore, going from an R-0 wall to an R-50 wall will have a much greater effect on your heating energy consumption than going from an R-50 wall to and R-100 wall.
We are excited to have started building the SURE HOUSE in a parking lot on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken New Jersey. “SURE Construction” is a subset of our PopSci blog that we’ll use to chronicle our construction process. Check back often if you want to follow our progress and get a first hand view of how a sustainable and resilient house takes shape.