Architecture

Solar-powered Sure House will stand up to the elements

Solar-powered Sure House will ...
The Sure House was designed in response to Hurricane Sandy
The Sure House was designed in response to Hurricane Sandy
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The Sure House was designed in response to Hurricane Sandy
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The Sure House was designed in response to Hurricane Sandy
The Sure House is designed to withstand extreme coastal weather
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The Sure House is designed to withstand extreme coastal weather
The Sure House uses up to 90 percent less energy than conventional houses
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The Sure House uses up to 90 percent less energy than conventional houses
The Sure House has fiber-composite siding developed in conjunction with its other storm resilient features
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The Sure House has fiber-composite siding developed in conjunction with its other storm resilient features
The Sure House sits on a bed of pilotis (supports) to elevate it out of reach of flooding
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The Sure House sits on a bed of pilotis (supports) to elevate it out of reach of flooding
The Sure House is so-called as it merges the words "SUstainable" and "REsilient"
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The Sure House is so-called as it merges the words "SUstainable" and "REsilient"
The Sure House is said to be a comfortable and architecturally innovative home
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The Sure House is said to be a comfortable and architecturally innovative home
The Sure House covers 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m)
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The Sure House covers 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m)
The Sure House has the open floor-plan of a 60s-style modern beach cottage
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The Sure House has the open floor-plan of a 60s-style modern beach cottage
The Sure House has a rainscreen system on its façade that provides protection from water damage by way of an additional outer skin of cladding with an air cavity
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The Sure House has a rainscreen system on its façade that provides protection from water damage by way of an additional outer skin of cladding with an air cavity
The Sure House has been designed to house a family of four
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The Sure House has been designed to house a family of four
The Sure House is an entry in the 2015 Solar Decathlon
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The Sure House is an entry in the 2015 Solar Decathlon

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."

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.

The Sure House covers 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m)
The Sure House covers 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m)

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.

The Sure House has a rainscreen system on its façade that provides protection from water damage by way of an additional outer skin of cladding with an air cavity
The Sure House has a rainscreen system on its façade that provides protection from water damage by way of an additional outer skin of cladding with an air cavity

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.

Sources: Sure House, Solar Decathlon

Stevens Computer-Animated Walkthrough – Solar Decathlon 2015

6 comments
Michael Ryan
I noticed that the story starts with the phrase: "Solar-powered Sure House will stand up to the elements." As a person who lives in Canada the elements that I have do deal with include snow. For example, homes on Georgian Bay (Wasaga Beach) had over 3 meters (9.75 feet plus) of snow on them by the end of February. We get all the bad weather that you folks down south deal with so it's nice to know this design will handle wind, rain etc. but I wonder what the snow load of these homes would be with the flat roof.
Bob Flint
Forget the snow loads, it's "STORM Proof" what does that mean in MPH, hurricane proof!! Really those shutters made of titanium or something like it. It will be washed away sitting that close to the ocean, unless anchored with steel pylons to the bedrock, then it will end up twisted and deformed beyond recognition with the solar/glass going back to sand.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
I keep seeing these as beach houses, probably because it is romantic, but the market is vanishingly small. Also, most of the ocean front climate is very mild. The house would be much more economical with a burried basement.
Don Duncan
Forced air heat/cool and electric water heater? FAIL! Bird cage glazing? FAIL. Radiant heat and daytime illumination by skylight. Solar oil/air exchange water heater and floor/wall pipes. Most of the energy requirements would be meant. Next, remaining energy supplied by PV. With super insulation/thermal bank/radiation barrier, no grid would be needed in any climate. People keep trying to reinvent passive/active solar and failing.
minivini
Very cool as a concept. That said, I'm absolutely sick of seeing these things with little to no relevant information. IS THIS PLANNED FOR MARKET AND HOW MUCH IS IT PROJECTED TO COST?! Without this information, this is only a design exercise.
christopher
Outdoor wood, steel furniture, shingles - those students don't have a clue - but that's ok. That's what students are - kids right out of school without a clue, trying to learn stuff. Everything rusts, wood rots, sun destroys paint, plastic, and wood protection, and rain on the coast goes upwards as much as it falls down (the wind blowing in from the ocean carries it up through your under-roof vents and up through those shingles etc...) Why are we all so obsessed with the uneducated ideas of kids I wonder? Throw an old experienced architect at the problem, and the result will actually *be* awesome, instead of just sounding like it might be.