A sleek, modern $300,000 house is rising in a parking lot overlooking the Hoboken waterfront with the New York City skyline as a backdrop.
The one-of-a-kind modular house has Western red cedar rain screens, solar shingles, the latest innovations in heating and a unique green wall and roof covered with living plants.
But don’t expect a for-sale sign to go up anytime soon. Later this month, the new house will be disassembled and shipped nearly 2,439 miles to Irvine, Calif. Then it will be rebuilt by students from Stevens Institute of Technology, who are entering the house in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.
More than 60 Stevens students and faculty members spent two years designing and building the house, which they have dubbed Ecohabit. Their mission was to create an energy-efficient and attractive home on an affordable budget.
“The team’s goal is to integrate technology into the house,” said senior chemical engineering major Dan Munt, referring to all of the student-designed features in the house.
The federal government’s Solar Decathlon, which is held every two years, challenges college students to design and construct energy-efficient, solar-powered houses. Stevens is among 20 colleges chosen to compete in this year’s challenge. The 20 furnished houses will be shipped to California and reassembled in Orange County Great Park, where they will be judged and displayed for 10 days.
The decathlon consists of 10 different contests. Teams will be judged on their houses’ energy efficiency, architecture and affordability. They will also be judged on the structure’s comfort level, as the participants host a dinner party and movie night in the houses. The winners get bragging rights and the real-world experience of designing an award-winning house while still in school.
Stevens is not the only team from New Jersey building a solar house. New Jersey Institute of Technology students in Newark have entered their own solar home in a separate solar decathlon competition in China. Partnered with students from Harbin Institute of Technology in China, the NJIT team has been working this summer to finish their entry, called Nexus House.
In Hoboken, Stevens students are constructing their entry in two sections — a wet and dry module — so it can be easily transported and reassembled in California. The wet module, covered in concrete panels, controls the plumbing while the dry module, lined with Western red cedar rain screenings, sports the team’s alternative to solar panels.
Stevens team designs, builds solar home for a brighter future For the past two years, a group of 60 students and faculty from Stevens Institute of Technology have been planning, designing and building a house to compete in a solar decathlon. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the competition will be held in Irvine, California in October where 20 teams from around the world will compete to have the most affordable, energy efficient and attractive home. Stevens’ house, Ecohabit, will implement several unique features and student-invented systems including DOW Powerhouse solar shingles, Bio PCM insulation and dehumidifier that uses a liquid desiccant system. (Video by Lisa Hagen/The Star-Ledger)
Stevens students said they are the only team incorporating solar shingles in their house. Courtney Gnash, a sophomore majoring in music and technology, described the shingles as “solar panels in disguise.” Similar to asphalt shingles, the solar shingles snap together through a conduit.
“They’re very discreet, streamlined, and they’re more aesthetically pleasing than solar panels and less bulky,” Gnash said, noting the shingles are hurricane resistant.
Around the exterior, Stevens students are also installing green fixtures and gardens as additional energy sources. Claire Griffin, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, said the team integrated plants into Ecohabit to have “more interaction with nature.”
Students also designed a “smart detection system” that will monitor energy consumption and savings in every room. The size of a fire alarm, the system will learn a resident’s daily lifestyle patterns and can be accessed through a phone application.
The house also includes insulation that will act as a “thermal buffer” for the house, storing heat to either keep in the structure or release to the outside depending on the weather. Ecohabit also only has ramps so the house is wheelchair-accessible, a requirement for the competition.
Once construction is finished, the house’s interior will be furnished with modular furniture, which can be rearranged to suit any lifestyle.
Two years ago, Stevens partnered with Parsons The New School for Design in New York to build a solar house for the competition held in Washington, D.C. Their entry won the contest for the most affordable house. This time around, Stevens students worked alone and spent a bit more money, with a projected budget of $300,000. Sponsors and donated materials helped cover the cost.
Ryan Seiffert, who recently graduated with a degree in business and technology, said it was a “good experience” to work on the project with other Stevens students outside his major.
“It’s been interesting to work with everyone, a little difficult at times,” Seiffert explained. “Sixty students is a lot of people to try to coordinate together, but I think we did a good job with it.”
Star-Ledger staff writer Kelly Heyboer contributed to this report.