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Empowerhouse, Washington D.C., Habitat for Humanity, Parsons New School, Stevens Institute of Technology, Affordable Housing

From the very beginning, the Empowerhouse was planned to be more than just an entry for the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Designed and built by a student group from Parsons The New School for Design, Stevens Institute of Technology and Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School, the prefab home adheres to the principles of Passive House. The project was also developed in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. (DC Habitat) and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and is the first project in the Solar Decathlon’s history to have a life as real housing beyond the competition.

After the competition, the home was moved off the Mall and taken to the Deanwood neighborhood to its new resting place. Additional modules were brought in and assembled on the site to make the home a duplex equipped to provide housing for two families. A number or organizations and sponsors helped along the way, including Binational Softwood Lumber Council, Jones Lang LaSalle, Metlife Foundation, Tess Dempsey Design, and Sheila Johnson and the Washington Mystics; as well as community organizations such as Groundwork Anacostia River DC, which provides environmental education and restoration projects to neighborhoods along the river. The home adheres to Passive House design principles and is net-zero with the help of a modest photovoltaic system.

The ribbon cutting and completion ceremony was held on December 4th. Lakiya Culley, a Deanwood resident and single mother of three young children, who works as a secretary for the U.S. Department of State, will move into the house in January. The second family was recently selected and will move in soon as well.

“This project fulfills a longstanding vision of our team to create a house that would endure in a meaningful way after the Solar Decathlon was over,” said Joel Towers, executive dean of Parsons The New School for Design. “Empowerhouse illustrates The New School’s commitment to design-led civic engagement, and is a true model of affordable sustainable housing that has the potential for national as well as international replication. Due to the success of this project, Parsons is now in the planning stages of a second project to build a home with Habitat in Philadelphia.”

Images ©Martin Seck and Ashley Hartzell