The SURE HOUSE, Winner of the 2015 Solar Decathlon


Every two years, the U.S. Department of Energy holds the Solar Decathlon. The Solar Decathlon is a contest that challenges colleges and their students to come up with an innovative design that is energy efficient and cost effective. The homes must also be functional and attractive, as consumer appeal is one point that is also judged. This year, the Stevens Institute of Technology won with their entry of the SURE HOUSE.

Winning the Competition

Fourteen teams competed in this year’s decathlon. The competition was held over two weeks, between October 8 and 18 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. Many teams came up with amazing and attractive ideas, but the SURE HOUSE had the extra functionality that helped to give it an edge.

The SURE HOUSE was designed for use in coastal settings and provides resistance to severe weather as well as functioning in a sustainable way. SURE takes influence from the words SUstainable and REsistant. The clever name also helps to conjure images of a “shore” house, which is exactly what this cutting edge home will be when it reaches its final destination.

Design Elements with an Edge

The SURE HOUSE was designed to look like a 1960s style beach cottage with a modern appeal. The fiber composite materials used to craft the outer shell were repurposed from the boating industry, making them a sustainable addition and giving the home an uncompromising layer of protection. The shades open up to allow natural light into the home when the weather is fair but fold down to become storm shutters when the weather turns foul.

Solar Power

The solar panels on the roof capture energy and help to shield the home from unwanted solar gains. Though the home is “on the grid,” the energy stores can be tapped in the event of a power outage. The build team even constructed a hub that would allow homes and businesses in the community to draw power from the store if needed.

Climate Control

To keep the SURE HOUSE comfortable while ensuring that it did not exceed energy usage allowances for the contest, the build team installed several energy efficient appliances. A Daikin Skyair pump balances humidity and heats or cools the home as needed. A Zehnder Novus ERV circulates fresh air into the home and stale air out while recovering energy and maintaining the desired temperature and humidity levels. The hot water heater even functions using solar energy.


Now that the Solar Decathlon is done, the SURE HOUSE will travel to its final destination on the Jersey shore, on Ocean Avenue in Seaside Park. The home will serve as a public outreach facility for the Stevens Institute of Technology. Placing the home on the Jersey Shore will allow the college to work with area builders and architects to help design more sustainable and weather resistant homes based on the specific climate challenges encountered in the area.

In building and placing the SURE HOUSE, the Stevens Institute of Technology hopes to help prevent future incidents like Hurricane Sandy from having as profound an impact. Drawing from these innovative ideas, builders and construction companies may be able to prevent a large degree of the devastation wrought by natural disasters.