Empower a House

  • PARTNERS: Habitat for Humanity of Washington, DC; DC Department of Housing and Community Development; Groundwork USA

    GOAL: Create and showcase sustainable solar-powered homes that are both technologically groundbreaking and affordable

    APPROACH: Students from Parsons and the Milano School, joining with students from Stevens Institute of Technology, were among 20 teams competing to design, build, and operate sustainable solar-powered homes using cutting-edge technology. The team worked alongside community partners in low-income neighborhoods to design a prototype that would be judged according to the criteria of affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence as well as optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

    OUTCOME: Bringing together nonprofit, academic and government sectors, the students’ resulting design, Empowerhouse, was a true model of affordable, sustainable housing that has the potential for implementation around the country and the world. With features including automated lighting fixtures, to zero-energy heating and cooling systems, self-irrigating gardens, and thoughtfully designed interiors, Empowerhouse defied traditional housing constraints to prove that innovative housing can be not only sustainable but efficient and affordable. Directly addressing one of the most pressing issues facing the world today — the need for cost-effective housing design that is both net energy neutral and minimally consumptive — Empowerhouse is proof that great designs can nourish a community, revolutionize an industry, and minimize cost.

    Empowerhouse was the winner of the Affordability Category in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon and was awarded the Mayor’s Sustainability Award from then-Washington, DC, Mayor, Vincent Gray. The design went on to become a real home for two local families in the Deanwood section of the city, a neighborhood undergoing a powerful revitalization through a range of economic development and environmental sustainability initiatives.

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