Sure House is More Than Just Sustainable


One of the entries into this year’s US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is the so-called Sure House, which is powered by solar energy and also built to withstand harsh coastal weather conditions. It was designed by the students of the Stevens Institute of Technology in association with the PSEG Foundation. The aim was to create a solar powered, energy-efficient, cost-effective and also hurricane-proof home. The name of it is a merging of the words SUstainable and REsilient.


The Sure House is designed to house a family of four, and has an open style floor plan in the style of a 1960s beach cottage. It measures 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m). The house features a rain screen system on its façade to prevent water damage via this additional outer skin that also features an air cavity. The house also has fiber-composite siding and both together form an armored and waterproof shell for the entire house. Shade is provided via storm shutters, which also form a barrier against water and debris blowing in when storms hit.



The house rests on a bed of pilotis, which elevates it and prevents flooding. Should water get into the house regardless, there is also an open-web wooden-truss floor-system which lets air circulate to prevent rotting and mold damage. The flooring is made of water-resistant corkboard and vinyl tile.

Sure House also has a highly efficient building envelope, which prevents both heat loss and heat gain. The house is also equipped with an energy recovery ventilation system, while water is heated by a solar-electric system. The home is also fitted with a heat pump, which heats, cools and dehumidifies the house.

To further reduce the energy expenditure of the home, only energy-efficient appliances were installed. These include a large capacity Turbowash washing machine that is able to wash clothes quickly, as well as a hybrid dryer, which recovers lost heat to reduce energy demand.

Sure House is also completely powered by solar energy and has building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) installed into its storm shutters. These are able to harvest solar energy when they are open.


Should electricity be cut off by severe weather, the heat pump and solar-electric hot water system can function off-the-grid. According to the builders, the solar array can produce around 10,000 W of electricity in normal conditions and 3,000 W of emergency power when isolated from the grid.



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