Campus & Community

Public Gets First Look at Stevens’ Entry House in Solar Decathlon 2015

<p>For many people living in the Northeast, the concept of a net-zero, solar-powered home that can stand up to some of Mother Nature&rsquo;s toughest weather conditions may seem far-fetched and impractical. At least that was the mindset before Hurricane Sandy barreled into the east coast, leaving in its wake a trail of devastation along the eastern seaboard that was unprecedented. Among the cities devastated by the storm was Hoboken, New Jersey &ndash; home to Stevens Institute of Technology.</p><p>Following a series of destructive storms over the past several years, Sandy was a tipping point for coastal communities. A sustainable, resilient house that could withstand hurricane-force conditions was no longer a luxury, but essential for the long-term existence of these communities.</p><p>So when Stevens <a href="http://www.stevens.edu/news/content/stevens-institute-technology-selecte... selected to compete in its third consecutive Solar Decathlon competition</a>, an interdisciplinary team of Stevens students saw an opportunity to create a new paradigm for coastal housing.</p><p>At an unveiling held Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at the Griffith Building on Stevens&rsquo; campus in Hoboken, the public got its first glimpse of what will be Stevens &#39; entry house in the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition. Visitors strolled through the building&rsquo;s cavernous interior, set up much like an art gallery for the occasion, to view giant-sized posters detailing the plans of the <a href="http://www.stevens.edu/news/content/stevens-announces-competition-house-... HOUSE &ndash; a <strong>su</strong>stainable, <strong>re</strong>silient home for coastal communities</a>.</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/wkcfKvx8Omc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Elaborate renderings of the house from all angles, at different times of the day and year, gave viewers a sense of how the house would perform under variable and extreme conditions. Visitors were also reminded to look down at the floor, where markings of a blueprint displayed the location of each room within the house.</p><p>Dr. Keith Sheppard, associate dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering &amp; Science at Stevens, kicked off the event. Dr. Sheppard emphasized that SURE HOUSE is an entirely student-led project of more than 50 students. His vocal support of the Stevens team &ndash; &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to win it this time!&rdquo; &ndash; was met with a rousing cheer from the Solar Decathlon student team sporting SURE HOUSE T-shirts, who were on hand to answer questions from visitors, which included members of the media, a mayor from a Jersey Shore town and a local celebrity.</p><p>Dr. Sheppard introduced Stevens President Nariman Farvardin, whom he described as the &ldquo;single biggest fan of the competition.&rdquo; Solar Decathlon has been near and dear to President Farvardin long before he assumed the helm of Stevens, going back to his days at the University of Maryland. He described Stevens&rsquo; participation in the competition as best exemplifying the Stevens ethos of providing an interdisciplinary education that grooms students who work towards innovative solutions to the critical issues confronting the world, such as climate change and energy consumption.</p><p>Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer congratulated the student team, saying to them, &ldquo;this work may be the most important work you&rsquo;ve ever done,&rdquo; adding that she looks forward to the completion of the house and how it can be incorporated into the city that has been home to Stevens since its founding in1870.</p><p>John Nastasi, lead faculty for the Solar Decathlon project and director of Stevens&#39; Product-Architecture &amp; Engineering program, spoke proudly of the strength of the students who make up the Stevens team and how they are up to the challenge of completing the house within a year&rsquo;s time. He invited the attendees to return to see how the project is progressing.</p><p>Because many of the students on the Solar Decathlon team hail from the various shore towns of New Jersey, Chris Steffens, a faculty member on the project, points out that the students themselves have a personal stake in the outcome of the house.</p><p>Stevens sophomore and Solar Decathlon team member Sarah Gleason calls Ocean Township, New Jersey home.</p><p>&ldquo;As a Jersey Shore native, this house really hits home for me. This past summer has been very rewarding hard work,&rdquo; says Gleason. &ldquo;I have learned invaluable skills and gained an incredible amount of knowledge about green building, construction, solar-powered homes and flood-proofing.&rdquo;</p><p>In the wake of Sandy, FEMA came out with new guidelines that require many shore homeowners to raise their homes. The new requirements, some feel, significantly detract from the appeal of living along the coast. Intended to be built low to the ground, the design, construction and building materials of the SURE HOUSE counter the need to raise homes, according to Steffens.</p><p>Indeed, a poster displaying a FEMA-approved house raised high above the ground next to the soon-to-be-built SURE HOUSE presented a startling contrast, both aesthetically and in the overall message each gave about access to the beach and the feeling of community.</p><p>For John Wright, a Stevens graduate student working towards a master&rsquo;s in materials science, SURE HOUSE represents his second time around with Solar Decathlon. The difference he notes is the real-world mission of the SURE HOUSE, whereas in the past, the objective was mainly to win the competition.</p><p>&ldquo;We are designing a home that not only leaves the homeowners without an electric bill, but a house that can withstand a storm, potentially protecting a community from disaster,&rdquo; Wright says.</p><p>John Colaneri, Hoboken resident and co-host of HGTV&rsquo;s <em>Kitchen Cousins</em> with his cousin Anthony Carino, was also in attendance. He was most interested in the composition of the SURE HOUSE, saying the project can have impact in ways that don&rsquo;t require building an entire house. There are many features of the SURE HOUSE that average homeowners can incorporate into existing homes, he explains.</p><p>One Jersey Shore town that was prominently represented at the event was the Borough of Seaside Park, a town devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Bob Matthies, along with other members of the municipality, peered intently at the plans, including detailed infographics about the SURE HOUSE&rsquo;s architecture, heating and cooling system, flood proofing and energy usage. After spending considerable time speaking with the students, Mayor Matthies says he is already thinking about applications of the SURE HOUSE in Seaside Park, and will be closely tracking its progress.<br />&nbsp;</p>