After the 2011 DOE Solar Decathlon, one of its entries—known as Empowerhouse—won’t have far to travel. As of press time, it was slated to stay in Washington, D.C., to become part of a Habitat for Humanity duplex in the city’s Deanwood neighborhood. A team from Parsons The New School for Design; the Milano School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School; and Stevens Institute of Technology designed the solar-powered, 1,000-square-foot home using Passive House principles. Following the competition, the net zero energy building will be moved to Deanwood, where Habitat’s Washington chapter will work with local partners such as the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development to expand it into a 2,700-square-foot, two-family house.
Students from the three schools built the panelized Empowerhouse on Stevens’ Hoboken, N.J., campus last summer before breaking it down into two modules and shipping them to D.C. for the biennial decathlon. “As you build it, you actually see the consequences of your design decisions,” says Parsons student and design team member Carly Berger. The home’s super-insulated building envelope and energy recovery ventilator curb its power consumption, minimizing the number of pricey rooftop solar panels needed to achieve net-zero energy status.
Habitat D.C. hopes to use Empowerhouse as a model for future Passive House projects, reducing both environmental impact and utility bills. “Not only are we striving to be greener, but we want to keep energy costs lower to provide greater affordability,” says the chapter’s director of communications and client services, Heather Phibbs.