At the end of the US Solar Decathlon competition next year, one of the entries will move on to its final home in the Deanwood neighborhood of Washington D.C. The Empowerhouse is a net-zero home designed to Passive House standards that will consume 90% less energy than a typical home for heating and cooling. Unlike some of the SD Houses, this net-zero house has a life beyond the competition — it will actually serve to shelter local residents.
Habitat For Humanity Washington D.C. and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) are working in conjunction with the Empowerhouse design team to find a family to live in the sustainable and affordable home. The Deanwood neighborhood, in the northeast part of the capital city, was chosen in part because of its diverse base, history or community activism and its commitment to green building.
The Empowerhouse, which is still in development, is being designed by a collaborative team of students from Parsons The New School for Design, Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, and Stevens Institute of Technology. The home features air-tight, super-insulated walls, an accessible green roof, and a palette of materials chosen for durability, quality, and their ability to integrate into the home’s surrounding community. The project is also being designed to compliment Habitat For Humanity’s building practices, so that it can be easily constructed by volunteers who have no prior building experience.
The Solar Decathlon competition is an amazing program that gives students real-world experience in sustainable design and construction, although the program has received some criticism for the homes not being realistic or affordable. The Empowerhouse team is trying to move past that — the competition as the basis for their design process, but the project’s ultimate goal is to serve as someone’s home.