A Home Built to Minimize Energy Use and Maximize Storm Protection

The Challenge

Can we design a home for coastal New Jersey that dramatically reduces its energy use while protecting itself from the realities of a changing, more extreme climate?

90% Less Energy Use

The SURE HOUSE is engineered to use 91% less energy than a typical New Jersey home through simple Passive House measures.

Thermally Efficient

Through intense insulating and thermal bridge reduction the home is able to retain it's comfort levels with much less energy. A thermal bridge is a material that acts as a path for conductive heat loss, metal and wood often play this role in conventional construction. Check out our Popular Science post on insulation!

Air Tight Building Envelope

By sealing the SURE HOUSE with an air tight membrane the SURE HOUSE is ten times more air tight than a typical New Jersey home. Through a series of pressurizing and depressurizing tests we are able to ensure we have as tight an envelope as possible so that our heated or cooled air doesn't escape.

Energy Recovery Ventilator

Since the house is so much more air tight we must mechanically force fresh air into our space. An ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) supplies continuous fresh, filtered air providing a healthy conditioned space even during the winter months when opening a window for fresh air is less desirable. The unit efficiently recovers the heat in our extract air and recycles it into the incoming fresh air, greatly reducing the energy needed to keep the house comfortable.

Multi-Zone Heating and Cooling

The main air handler unit has a zoning kit attached to it which allows airflow to be regulated to up to 5 zones. We are using 4 zones in the SURE HOUSE each with it's own wireless thermostat so that we only supply heated or cooled air to the rooms that need it. Check out our Popular Science post on our mechanical system installation!

Net-Zero Solar

The house is outfitted with a 32-panel solar array on the roof...

Net-Zero Solar

...capable of meeting the primary energy needs for the home throughout the year.

Storm Shutter: Solar Hot Water

The building integrated photovoltaic panels (BIPV) on our storm shutters get wired directly into our hot water tank to serve as the primary means for heating the home's hot water. Check out our Popular Science blog about our hybrid photovoltaic + heat pump hot water system!

Storm Shutter: Shading

These shutters were also run through a thermal analysis to optimize the overhang length best utilize the sun when we need it in the winter...

Storm Shutter: Shading

...and shade in the summer when we don't need it.

Storm Shutter: Closed

When closed the storm shutters protect the southern facade of our home from debris as well as flooding. Lined with marine-grade gasketing and latches, the shutters seal up against the home.

100-Year Storm

In fact, we've designed the entire house to be protected in an AE Zone for 5 feet of flooding.

Storm Plugs

In addition to the shutters we have along the southern portion of the house we've also fabricated storm plugs which insert into the rest of the windows and doors in the home.

Floodproof Construction

We prototyped the floors and walls of the SURE HOUSE with a layer of ABS plastic adhered to the plywood. Marine adhesives and tapes were then used to seal the various seams and penetrations. This in combination with the storm shutters and plugs gives us a continuous hull around the house. Check out our Popular Science blog about floodproofing!

Resilient Backup Power

Having engineered a home to withstand the wrath of the next 100-year storm we wanted to further this pursuit by making the SURE HOUSE an energy hub through power outages and blackouts. With our solar inverter system the home is able to continue to produce 3000 Watts of power while the sun is shining.

Charging Station

With this availability of backup power we have integrated a USB charging station at the entrance of our home to allow neighbors to come by and juice up with clean renewable solar energy.

Solar Decathlon in Irvine, CA

We could not be more excited about all the amazing designs and innovations we've been able to include in the SURE HOUSE. We look forward to keeping everyone updated as we ship the home to Irvine, CA to ultimately compete against other collegiate teams in the U.S. Department of Energy 2015 Solar Decathlon competition. Be sure to follow SURE HOUSE on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!