As part of an ongoing effort to promote the benefits of sustainable living, students from Parsons The New School of Design and Stevens Institute of Technology teamed up to build Empowerhouse, an affordable, energy-efficient home, as part of the U.S Department of Energy's Solar Decathalon competition.
According to design news website Dexigner, the two-family house, which is in Washington D.C.'s Deanwood neighborhood, features a "site net-zero" system. This means that it will produce as much energy as it consumes, costing its inhabitants absolutely nothing in annual utility bills.
The total cost of building the house was $250,000, and its key features include recycling rain and tap water and using solar panels as a source of heat. Ultimately it will consume 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than an average home, requiring the amount of power needed to operate a hair dryer, reports Dexigner.
Executive dean of Parsons The New School of Design, Joel Towers, told local radio station WTOP that their goal was to create a home that would endure in a meaningful way after the competition was over.
Lakiya Culley, who will move into one unit of the house in January with her three sons, says that this whole experience, including the money her family will save on cost-of-living expenses, has changed her and her family's life significantly.
"It was, like, surreal when I stepped into the finished product," Culley told WTOP. "I was amazed. It was more than I could even imagine."
For homeowners hoping to make similar energy-efficient upgrades to their houses, the best way to start is with a home inspection. There are professionals who can assess your property and help you determine cost-effective actions you can take to convert to a more sustainable lifestyle.