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.
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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."
It's claimed to use 90 percent less energy than traditional homes, to be fully solar-powered, to be storm-proof and to have a "resilient energy hub" that ensures a supply of electricity even in the wake of a disaster.
Despite all this, the 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m) house is also reported to be a comfortable and architecturally innovative home for a middle or working class family of four, with the open floor-plan of a 60s-style modern beach cottage.
The house sits on a bed of pilotis (supports) to elevate it out of reach of flooding. It has fiber-composite siding developed in conjunction with its other storm resilient features. This is used to create an armored and waterproof shell for the house.
Storm shutters are also employed to provide shade from the sun throughout the year and act as a barrier against water and debris during storms. A rainscreen system on the house's façade, meanwhile, provides protection from water by way of an additional outer skin of cladding with an air cavity.
In the event that any internal flooding does occur, the Sure House has an open-web wooden-truss floor-system that allows for the movement of air and reduces the chance of rotting or mold damage. Water-resistant cork board flooring and vinyl tile flooring is also used.
To minimize its use of energy, the Sure House has a highly efficient building envelope designed to reduce heat loss. An energy recovery ventilation system is used to precondition incoming air and a solar-electric system is used to heat water.
An efficient heat pump is employed to heat, cool and dehumidify the space and has the added benefit of being able to control the temperature in each room of the house.
Energy-efficient appliances are also installed. A large capacity Turbowash washing machine is designed to wash clothes quickly, saving time and energy with each load. A hybrid dryer, meanwhile, recovers lost heat to reduce energy demand.
The Sure House is said to be fully solar-powered and has building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) built into its storm shutters. The solar panels panels harvest energy when the shutters are raised open.
To ensure the house is still operational in the event of power being knocked offline by severe weather, the solar-electric hot water system and integrated heat pump can heat water independently of the grid. When connected to the grid, the solar array is reported to typically produce around 10,000 watts, or 3,000 W of emergency power when isolated from the grid.
The house also has USB chargers integrated into its exterior so that neighbors can charge mobile devices if needed.
The Sure House has been in development for two years and is entered into the Solar Decathlon 2015, which takes place in California this coming October. After that, the house will become a public education facility.
The video below is an animated walk-through of the Sure House.