Campus & Community

Stevens Institute of Technology’s SURE HOUSE Named Winner in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

SURE House Team accepting their trophy

A team from Stevens Institute of Technology - inspired by Hurricane Sandy to design and create a net-zero home resilient enough to withstand Hurricane-force winds and flooding - won top honors at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California in October 2015.

The team was recognized by a panel of judges for the overall design, construction and sustainable operation of SURE HOUSE, which was conceived as the “Coastal Home of the Future.”

SURE HOUSE achieved a total score of 950.685 and outshined more than a dozen other student teams from universities around the world, ranking highest in architecture, market appeal, communications, appliances, engineering, commuting and home life. It also received a high score in the comfort zone contest where it was awarded second place. SURE HOUSE marks Stevens’ third consecutive entry in the prestigious competition since 2011.

“This competition challenges the best and brightest minds from around the world to create innovative, highly energy-efficient homes that will change how we build,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “These homes will become the new standard in blending affordability, consumer appeal and design with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”

Nearly three years ago, after witnessing the aftermath and devastation of Superstorm Sandy, a team of more than 30 Stevens students from various disciplines set out to build a house that would serve as a prototype for coastal homeowners in search of a sustainable, attractive and more storm resilient building.

 “This incredible victory is the culmination of a two-year journey and a testament to the hard work, commitment and ingenuity of the Stevens Solar Decathlon team,” said Stevens President Nariman Farvardin. “Their participation in this competition embodies the Stevens ethos to leverage science and technology education to confront some of society’s biggest challenges. I could not be more proud of our students and the faculty who guided them to this outcome, and I congratulate them all on this extraordinary achievement.”

“On behalf of the City of Hoboken, I congratulate the students and faculty of the SURE HOUSE team on their tremendous accomplishment,” said Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “Flooding is a century-old challenge for Hoboken, and this project is further demonstration of Stevens' commitment to our community.”

The Stevens team focused on developing SURE HOUSE to withstand a hurricane while also setting a gold standard for energy sustainability. Built with fiber-composite materials that were repurposed from the boat building industry, the home is designed to waste as little energy expended on heating and cooling as possible. The result is a building armored against extreme weather with a minimal carbon footprint.

Surrounding the home are bi-folding storm shutters, made with a composite foam core and wrapped with fiberglass, installed to shade the home throughout the year and act as the primary defensive barrier to block debris and water during inclement weather. SURE HOUSE powers itself with clean solar power, and uses 90 percent less energy than its conventional cousins. In the aftermath of a storm, SURE HOUSE can become a hub of emergency power for surrounding neighborhoods.

“This project was about creating a real, livable residence for families in coastal communities who will be hardest hit by the effects of climate change,” said A.J. Elliott, a graduate student in the Stevens Product Architecture and Engineering program and member of the SURE HOUSE team. “Our design provides a blueprint for the construction of homes that can endure extreme weather and epitomizes the principles of sustainable living.”

The U.S. Department of Energy selected student teams from five countries across two continents, including teams from universities in the United States, Germany, Honduras, Italy and Panama to participate in the 2015 competition.

All teams competed in 10 contests during 10 days that gauged each house’s performance, livability and affordability. The teams performed everyday tasks, such as cooking, laundry and dishwashing, that tested the energy efficiency of their houses. The winner of the overall competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

“This is a monumental feat and our students have much to be proud of,” said John Nastasi, lead faculty advisor on SURE HOUSE.

This year’s competition added an additional challenge by requiring that the homes be built to power a hybrid, non-electric vehicle. The SURE HOUSE partnered with Circle BMW in Eatontown, New Jersey which provided a BMWi3 that could run 90 miles off of the power received from SURE HOUSE.


About Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of TechnologyThe Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for 145 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,800 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 380 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense, maritime security, STEM education and coastal sustainability. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.

National attention to the outstanding quality of a Stevens education continues to grow. Stevens  is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs and mid-career salaries of alumni.

Learn more about the university’s Rankings and Recognition.