The SURE House, by Stevens Institute of Technology, uses marine industry hardware in its storm shutters, which are capable of resisting floods of up to five feet.
Deane Madsen The SURE House, by Stevens Institute of Technology, uses marine industry hardware in its storm shutters, which are capable of resisting floods of up to five feet.

The U.S. Department of Energy crowned Stevens Institute of Technology and its SURE House as victors of its 2015 Solar Decathlon at a ceremony on Saturday. Having won four of the five juried contests in the Solar Decathlon (including the architecture contest) as well as having performed well in the measured contests, the Stevens team was positioned well going into the final awards ceremony, which was held on the competition site at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. 

The SURE House, designed by the Stevens Institute of Technology, can withstand floodwaters up to 5 feet, and is the Hoboken, N.J.-based team's response to Hurricane Sandy. 
Deane Madsen The SURE House, designed by the Stevens Institute of Technology, can withstand floodwaters up to 5 feet, and is the Hoboken, N.J.-based team's response to Hurricane Sandy. 

Stevens Institute of Technology, which has its campus in Hoboken, N.J., had entered the two previous iterations of the Solar Decathlon in 2011 and 2013, and the 2013 team was preparing its entry for that year's competition when Hurricane Sandy struck and devastated the region. Students at Stevens witnessed the storm and its aftermath, including the FEMA response of elevating flood-prone houses on stilts occasionally as high as 10 feet off the ground. For the 2015 Solar Decathlon, the Stevens team chose to respond to the threat of coastal flooding during major storms with SURE House (an acronym for SUstainable and REsilient). On the resilience front, the SURE House can withstand hurricane force winds and floodwaters up to five feet, thanks to innovative storm shutters that borrow technology from the marine industry. Adding to its sustainability, the SURE House storm shutters, when not in use for flood prevention, shade a wall of sliding glass doors, and support photovoltaic panels to capture solar energy. These storm shutters, and other flood response techniques utilized in the SURE House, serve as prototypes for the students' hometown builders, who can use or adapt these techniques for existing homes along the Atlantic coast. 

Students from the Stevens team envisioned the SURE House as a coastal home of the future: “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,” A.J. Elliott, a graduate student at Stevens Institute of Technology's Product Architecture and Engineering program and member of the SURE House team, said in a release. “Our design provides a blueprint for the construction of homes that can endure extreme weather, and epitomizes the principals of sustainable living.”

SURE House: Sustainable and Resilient

“This prestigious competition to build energy-efficient, solar-powered homes helps students prepare for successful careers in clean energy," Richard King, director of the Solar Decathlon for the U.S. Department of Energy, said at the ceremony. "I want to recognize all of these teams for their hard work and creativity. Today’s results are the culmination of two years of perseverance and dedication. These students have helped demonstrate to thousands of visitors and viewers how to start saving money and energy in their own homes today.”

The Solar Decathlon gathers results from ten contests: Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Appliances, Home Life, Commuting, and Energy Balance, with 100 possible points per contest. Stevens Institute of Technology earned the highest score with 950.685 points. In second place, The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York earned 941.191 points. Third place was claimed by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with 910 points. Full results and scores for the 2015 Solar Decathlon are available at the DOE's Solar Decathlon site

The jury for the architecture contest included Ann Edminster, an expert on green homes and chair of the Green Building Task Force for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America; Ashar Nelson, AIA, founding principal at Vermont Integrated Architecture; and Alastair Reilly, design director and sustainability leader at William McDonough + Partners

“The Stevens design stacks up very favorably against many homes designed by seasoned architectural teams, and in fact outstrips the vast majority of U.S. houses when it comes to energy performance,” juror Ann Edminster said. “The love of community that drove this design inspired a highly effective collaboration, in turn giving rise to an exceptionally well-integrated final product that will benefit both the occupants and their larger community.” 


See more process photos and renderings of the Stevens Institute of Technology SURE Houseread ARCHITECT’s past coverage of the Solar Decathlon, and see all of the 2015 U.S. DOE Solar Decathlon entries

This post has been updated.