NYC College Students Invest in Affordable Housing

Event: Check out a Solar Decathlon Team! Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology
Location: Center for Architecture, 08.22.11
Speakers: The solar Decathlon Team of Parsons The New School for Design, Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy; Stevens Institute of Technology
Organizers: AIANY Building Enclosures Council

Empowerhouse depicted in Deanwood.

Courtesy Parsons The New School for Design

Two NYC-based college teams are competing against 18 other student-led teams from around the world in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon. The challenge for the collegiate teams: to design and build a house that best combines the elements of “affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”

Three “Empowerhouse” team leaders — Chelsea Crisafulli, MArch candidate from Parsons The New School for Design, Travis Heithoff, Masters candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and Heather Zanoni, Masters candidate in Environmental Policy at the Milano School of Management and Urban Policy at The New School — presented the design and technical aspects of their project, and discussed the intense collaboration necessary to get to this point in the process.

The Empowerhouse team consists of 200 students from 50 different classes that have been working together since the fall of 2009. Adhering to Passive House principles, they have designed a compact, 1,000-square-foot, one-bedroom house with a second-story light loft and a green roof. The house is currently under construction at the Stevens campus on the Hoboken waterfront. The house will be split in two and transported to the National Mall West Potomac Park, where it will be exhibited from 09.23-10.02.11.

Following the competition, the structure will be moved to the Deanwood section. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, DC and the Department of Housing and Community Development, the house will be expanded into a 2,700-square-foot, two-family home. The idea behind partnering with Habitat is to give the organization a new model it can employ on a national level. In addition to being affordable, this design can produce its own energy, reduce water usage, and grow food. These benefits will not only save homeowners money, but they will “empower” them to create a more sustainable lifestyle.

“We wanted people to see what younger people are doing,” said Chris Benedict, RA, chair of the AIANY Building Enclosures Council, “and we have a lot to learn from these students.”

Team New York, an interdisciplinary team from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture and the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York, is also competing. Their project, entitled “Solar Roof Pod,” makes use of the sun and the most underutilized urban space — rooftops. For information about the competition visit the Solar Decathlon homepage.