Stevens Institute of Technology was selected again for the 2013 Solar Decathlon competition in Irvine, California.  The Stevens team brings together a cross-disciplinary group of students with expertise in design, engineering, architecture, art, and computer science.  Together, they are designing Ecohabit, a new solar home that incorporates the latest technology, research, and “Smart House” principles to demonstrate that solar power is an affordable, viable, and reliable home energy source.

Established in 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition in which 20 collegiate teams compete in designing a solar-powered eco-home.  Homes are tested, judged on, and scored on ten categories including architecture, affordability, energy balance, and communications.  In 2011, Stevens and Parsons were selected to join the competition and built the Empowerhouse which is now the most energy-efficient home in the District of Columbia.

The Ecohabit effort supports the educational enrichment of students in the areas of sustainability, innovation, and green technology—this unique training prepares students to advance our nation’s clean-energy workforce.  The home utilizes the latest technology and research to demonstrate the vast capabilities of solar power along with automating energy systems.  This educational enrichment in sustainability and innovation provides unique training for their future projects out of college. 

Ecohabit will be remarkably intelligent.  It will quickly learn the habits of its occupants through sensor-gathered data: when they sleep, do the laundry, and watch television – as well as when the house is full or empty – and adjust energy use accordingly.  An integrated software package will control all systems, and is easily accessible from a smart-device application.

The house will be made of newly created ‘phase-change’ materials in the walls.  These walls collect the sun’s heat during the day, then release warmth back into the house during the evening.  The roof will be constructed Dow Solar Shingles, a fully integrated PV system that converts the sun’s rays into electricity to power the house.  It will also feature in-house design innovations such as on-demand hot water sensors that enable the user to only use the water they need, a misting system that reuses condensate to cool outdoor units, and modular furniture construction that can be reconfigured over time and adapt based on the needs of the users.

Ultimately, the project will redefine what it means to be ‘eco-friendly.’  The team’s purpose is to alert the public that solar power is becoming more affordable and practical for use in private homes.  In this society, ever-dependent on coal and oil for energy, the team believes that a change is necessary to steer away from such resources.  The technology – available and always improving – is not being taken advantage of by the public. Thus, Ecohabit embodies the belief that it is our responsibility, as super-empowered young adults, to communicate the urgency for change and incite such change by participating in this impressive movement.

With the inclusion of research and development based elements and innovative features of Ecohabit, Stevens is looking to take home top honors in California later this year.