Solar Decathlon, Parsons NS Stevens

Another favorite home from 2011 Solar Decathlon:

2.  Empowerhouse: Parsons NS Stevens’ Entry

The Empowerhouse design was a collaboration between Parsons The New School for Design, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School and Stevens Institute of Technology.  The project took on a slightly different mission than that of New Zealand’s first light house.

The house, much like the New Zealand home, was kept fairly simple, with a straightforward profile and a clean and simple floor plan.  This house, however, is set to become a Habitat for Humanity home and will be sited in a neighborhood in Washington D.C.  Not only is it to be sited in D.C. but the home will actually add a second story and a second home will be constructed which mirrors the first and will create a duplex on it’s final site.

The team’s mission of becoming a Habitat for Humanity home was reflected in winning the Affordability Contest.

The design is comprised of a couple of key features:

Living ‘Dry’ Module

The living module occupies the west side of the home and is comprised of the bedroom, the living loft (which will eventually become the stairway to the upstairs bedrooms), and the primary living space in the home.

Service ‘Wet’ Module

The wet module occupies the east side of the home and is comprised of the mechanical room, the bathroom, and the kitchen.  This condensing of systems is a strategy many of the homes in the competition implemented, including the Ohio State entry.  Further, it’s something we also pushed for in the design for 701 Shelby.

For me, however, the keys features of the home that really stood out were the details on the interior.  There were some really great, beautiful details that took the home from being good to being more than just good.

The first is the way the windows were trimmed out on the interior.  Instead of simply framing out the window, the team took a leap and created more of a faceted, asymmetrical design for the window framing.  The window itself begins to become more than just a window, almost a piece of art in the home.

The other feature of the home that made it stand out from the others was the furniture in the living space.  The furniture wraps the stairway which will lead the eventual second floor bedrooms.  It becomes the focal point for the living space, and serves a variety of functions from shelving, storage, a workspace, to a spare fold-out murphy bed.

Check out the Empowerhouse website for more information on the house, from passive house strategies to systems design and tons of photos:


Fill it up

Last week the foundation was filled with a compacted granular fill and the perimeter foundation insulation was installed.  The water lines are installed and pouring the slab will come next once the weather cooperates.

Show me the money

We finally received approval to move forward using the NSP (Neighborhood Stabilization Program) funds!  So now, once the SIPs are finalized and final shop drawings are approved, we can expect to see progress pick up on the site.  It’s been a long and somewhat frustrating process, but things finally appear to be picking up steam and moving forward.

Solar Decathlon, New Zealand

I thought I would feature a few of my favorite moments from the 2011 Solar Decathlon:

1. First Light: New Zealand’s House

New Zealand finished the competition in 3rd place, and for good reason.  They finished 1st in engineering, 2nd in architecture, and 3rd in market appeal.  Their house was beautifully crafted, consisted of a simple, yet multi-functional floor plan, and a strong connection and flow between interior and exterior spaces.

The design for their home was centered around the concept of the Kiwi bach (for us non Kiwis…it’s pronounced batch).  The bach is a vacation home in New Zealand.  The design features three primary zones in the house which include the living zone, the bedroom zone, and the central kitchen/dining zone with an awesome concrete countertop as the centerpoint of the home.  This zone serves a variety of functions and feeds into the Kiwi bach notion of social space.  The counter becomes the gathering place in the home, from which both the living space and the bedroom space feed into.  It can function as an extension of the kitchen, a dining space, a work space, or simply a space for gathering. Further, this space is flanked on both the north and the south by bi-folding doors and a skylight above to maximize the connection to the outdoors.  Finally, the table is further defined by a custom pendant light fixture above, reminiscent of a boat-like form.

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In the end, it’s a fairly simple plan but just done really well.  The spaces flow nicely from one to the other and the home definitely boasted the best craft in the competition.  The natural wood tones throughout the house create a warm, welcoming environment and work really well with the contrasting concrete surfaces.  Oh…and it didn’t hurt that the Kiwi’s were a great group of teammates and appeared extremely humble throughout the competition.

Solar Decathlon

I apologize for the lapse in posts as of late.  I was actually in Washington D.C. for the 2011 Solar Decathlon Competition supporting The Ohio State University’s entry.  We had a great run in the competition, doing extremely well in many categories and finished the competition in 5th place out of 19 teams.  For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, here is a brief description from the Department of Energy:

“The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, and 2009. The next event will take place at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23–Oct. 2, 2011. Open to the public free of charge, visitors can tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money today.”

Our team consisted primarily of architecture, engineering, and construction systems management students.  Here are a few images to give you a sense of Ohio State’s entry into the competition:

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Check out the Ohio State enCORE website for a full rundown on the house’s concept and lot’s of other great information and photos:

The Solar Decathlon is such a great experience and an awesome event to attend.  I highly recommend you go if you ever have the chance.  It’s wonderful to see the diversity in the projects and to see so many young people from around the world committed to such great design work, but with a sensibility to our impact on the planet.  I was blown away by many of the entries and equally as inspired.  Following an event like the Solar Decathlon, the ideas just start flowing.

So, stayed tuned for the next post and I will share some of my favorite moments from the other homes in the competition and also some of the highlights of my time in D.C. and New York City.