Can this Solar House Survive a Hurricane? It SURE Can!

Hurricane Sandy, known as Superstorm Sandy, was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Almost 2.5 million people were left without power in the aftermath of the storm. Damages were estimated to be more than $75 billion—a number only surpassed by Hurricane Katrina as the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history.

Image credit: Stevens Institute of Technology

The SURE House, winner of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015, was designed by the Stevens Institute of Technology to meet the needs of middle-and-working class residents in New York and New Jersey who experienced severe damage from Hurricane Sandy.

The Stevens team’s goal was to design and build a low energy, solar-powered, storm resilient home for coastal communities. The 1,000-square foot modular house takes into account the flood maps issued by FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as well as the economic viability of modern approaches to building in these neighborhoods.

  • Fiber-composite materials Advanced materials, repurposed from the boat-building industry, use fiber glass, carbon, and bio-fibers such as flax and plastic binders that are low-weight and durable to protect from storms and flooding.
  • Bi-folding storm shutters Made of a composite foam core and wrapped with fiberglass to act as a defensive barrier against flying debris and flooding.
  • Self-generated clean solar power Reduces energy consumption to 90 percent compared to conventional homes. The roof-mounted solar panels covert the sun’s rays into electrical energy and provide all the house’s power needs over the course of the year.
  • Emergency power hub Can help power cars and charge phones as needed for not just SURE House, but also surrounding neighborhoods, in the aftermath of a storm.

By using these strategies, the SURE House stands as a case study for a durable design strategy that nurtures the interdependent relationship between the scientific study of Hurricane Sandy and the development of engineering systems to solve actual problems.

Today, the SURE House is open to the public as part of the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, with a goal of being fully re-assembled by the end of the summer. It will be a permanent public exhibit and part of the museum with a focus on sustainable building.

With its purpose-driven use of technology, this award-winning home shows us how to build a house to weather the storm and so much more. To learn more, virtually explore this model of sustainability and resilience in a computer-animated walkthrough.

This article was originally published by the U.S. Department of Energy in the public domain.

Lead image credit: Stevens Institute of Technology


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Michele Capots is Senior Communications Specialist with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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