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Orange County Great Park, Irvine, California
October 8-18, 2015

Stevens: Stevens Institute of Technology

Team website:

Stevens Institute of Technology started with a simple question when preparing for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015: "How can we design a home that both reduces energy use and adapts to the realities of a changing, more extreme climate?" The answer is the SURE (sustainable + resilient) HOUSE, a high-performance, solar-powered house that is armored against extreme weather and can provide emergency power in the aftermath of a storm—packaged as a comfortable, beautiful shore house.

Stevens Institute of Technology previously competed in Solar Decathlon 2011 and Solar Decathlon 2013.   

Design Philosophy

The storm surge, high winds, and flooding associated with 2012's Superstorm Sandy highlighted the vulnerability of Mid-Atlantic shore neighborhoods. The SURE HOUSE therefore began with a simple idea: create a low-energy, solar-powered, storm-resilient home for vulnerable coastal communities. The notion of the "shore house" resulted in a focus on indoor-outdoor spaces, and through a simple design transformation, the SURE HOUSE doubles its usable space in the summer months by opening up to the outdoor decks. This outdoor living room complements a contemporary interior that draws on natural daylight and flexible living space to create an inviting family home.

The SURE HOUSE is based on three principles: use less energy through smart design, generate all energy needed through renewable solar electric, and be capable of providing power during electrical outages.



    • A storm-rugged PV system supplies power when in the grid is down without the use of batteries.
    • Working with local topography such as dunes, the SURE HOUSE can be raised slightly to avoid periodic nuisance flooding and encapsulate vital building systems in a storm-resistant shell.
    • Thick insulation and rigorous air-sealing mean the SURE HOUSE is less sensitive to outdoor temperature swings and remains clean, safe, healthy, and comfortable inside.


    • An "islanding" PV array produces energy even when the utility grid is damaged or disconnected, powering the house and allowing neighbors to charge their electronic devices via exterior USBs.
    • The SURE HOUSE exceeds Passive House standards for energy use through the use of dense insulation, rigorous air sealing, smart construction techniques, and high-performance windows,
    • Architecturally integrated, fiber-composite shutters on the southern façade provide passive solar control and house integrated PV panels when up and lock into the structure with a watertight seal when down.
    • A hybrid heat pump hot water tank accepts DC power directly from the PV system to allow it to function without grid power.


    Market Strategy

    The New York and New Jersey shores are home to tight-knit neighborhoods of residents who represent the target market for the SURE HOUSE. Designed with a middle-class family in mind, the SURE HOUSE represents a new direction in living for coastal shore housing by providing a safe, secure, comfortable, and architecturally innovative home. The two bedrooms and flexible living spaces allow a family to live comfortably in a relatively compact home.

    What's Next

    After Solar Decathlon 2015, the SURE HOUSE will be delivered to Seaside Park, New Jersey, where it will become a full-time education and resiliency center, owned and operated by the town.


    Ed May

    Neither the United States, nor the Department of Energy, nor the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness for any purpose of any technical resources or data attached or otherwise presented here as reference material.