Hurricane Joaquin has homeowners cleaning up a huge mess in Bermuda and the United States, leaving them concerned about their biggest investment—their home—and how well it can stand up to a big storm.
Students from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey have built a home that aims to weather the strongest winds and rising flash floods. The goal is to minimize another disaster like Joaquin. And builders can most definitely learn from the project.
“This is our third entry into the competition and each house has gotten incrementally more advanced,” says John Natasi, lead faculty member and founder of Natasi Architects.
The Sure House was built over the summer by a team of six faculty members and about 50 students. It was tested for a month to make sure all of the home technology was working as designed and deconstructed into three modular units to be reassembled in California.
The home was entered into the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 Solar Decathlon, which challenges collegiate teams from around the country to design, build and operate solar-powered homes. After ten days the Stevens’ team was chosen as the winner, scoring 93 out of a perfect 100 points.
The home must be cost-effective, attractive and energy efficient. The Stevens’ team decided to go one step further and design a home that can withstand a hurricane.
Unique Solar Structure and IAQ
The Sure House has been designed from the ground up to be as energy efficient as possible.
A 32 panel solar array waits on the roof to generate power, resulting in a net zero design. Additional solar panels have been installed on the storm shutters. The power from these five panels are wired directly to the hot water tank to serve as the home’s primary means of hot water.
This hybrid solar and heat pump system is a unique concept builders can use to save energy. “I think the glass solar storm shutters are going to be the big talk of the project; they’re really going to catch people’s attention,” said Natasi.
Using Passive House measures, the Sure House has been engineered to use 91 percent less energy than the average New Jersey home.
Since the house’s envelope is so tight, an efficient Paul Energy Recovery Ventilator is used to pump filtered air in while stale air is pushed through an exhaust system.
Hidden Technology to Hurricane Proof
There’s even more tech within the home’s walls to make it hurricane proof.
The house uses extensive amounts of pressure activated tape, wood blockers and waterproof sheathing to keep water out without any of it being noticeable. To become fully flood-proof, a vertical drainage plane was installed in the front. This allows a barrier to come down in case of rising water—effectively keeping out floodwater.
The home has been designed to also serve as an energy hub following the storm, allowing other homes to power up from its solar-generated power.
Coastal builders can use these same techniques to keep water out on their next project. Devices like WaterCop monitor and alert the homeowner if water gets in.
Students Invent Smart Monitoring System
Students from Stevens Institute of Technology designed and built their own smart home system using open software from Arduino.
The student-built interface uses a touchscreen that’s mounted to the wall and LED rings. It will alert homebuyers—on either the touchscreen or smart phone—if they are below or above their energy budget. A smartphone can also be used with the wall panel to remotely access and configure connected devices.
The Sure House uses sensors around the home that monitor moisture and homeowner behavior to create ideal conditions through the multi-room HVAC systems.
The 2015 Solar Decathlon began on October 8th in Irvine California.