Earlier this year, Northwestern was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to compete alongside 15 other universities from around the world in the Solar Decathlon 2017. Northwestern’s team, “House by Northwestern” (HBN), has hit the ground running in designing a fully-functional, solar-powered home conceived and built in collaboration with industry partners. In the fall of 2017, HBN and competitors will unveil their houses in Denver, CO as they compete for $2 million in prize money. Teams will be judged on their home’s efficiency and energy production, in combination with design appeal and market potential.
This spring, students enrolled in the course ISEN 390 Special Topics in Energy and Sustainability have been hard at work conceptualizing and designing the home. Bill Bach, a junior studying Civil Engineering at Northwestern, has been involved with the project since its inception. “Reading about the premise of the Solar Decathlon, I was instantly interested,” Bach said. “Last fall, I was able to visit the Solar Decathlon 2015 site in Irvine, California, which gave me a sense of the scale and work that would have to go into this. Ever since, I’ve tried to be as involved as possible with this project.”
Through HBN, students are gaining real-world experience working with leading professional architects and interior designers. These industry experts are helping students implement their innovative ideas and leverage cutting edge sustainable design concepts. “I love working on HBN because I’m learning an incredible amount of information and applying it to a real-world project,” explained Ashley Secreto, a sophomore studying Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics. “Right now, the Design and Architecture Team is finalizing the floor plan of the 1,000 square foot home, and we are beginning to decide on exteriors and roofing options. We’re also working on incorporating aspects of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural principles into our design to integrate the home into Chicago’s architectural heritage.”
Bach also described some of the innovative ideas his team is implementing: “The Building Envelope Team is focused on the exterior ‘skin’ of the house. We’re designing a home that can be easily transported and assembled and has minimal construction waste associated with it. At the same time, we want the building envelope to be so effective that no one notices it’s even there. Our goal is to achieve insulation levels approximately three to four times higher than current building standards.”
In addition to striving to win the competition, the HBN team is giving careful consideration to what happens to the house after the competition is over. “Our vision is that this house comes back to Evanston as a residential unit after the competition,” said Maggie Waldron, Director of Program Operations, Partnerships, and Communications for HBN. “This is something we envision to be part of the Evanston community and to be accessible to everyone through community tours and events.”
Momentum will continue through the summer, with ten students staying on campus to work full-time on the project.
As one part of HBN’s fundraising strategy, students are running a campaign through Catalyzer, Northwestern’s crowdfunding platform that enables student groups to raise money for impactful projects. Please consider helping the students reach their $12,000 goal before the campaign ends on June 2. A successful campaign will help demonstrate community support for sustainability and renewable energy.
Stay current on news and events by signing up for the HBN newsletter on the team’s website or by following them on twitter and Facebook. For more information on HBN, contact Maggie Waldron at firstname.lastname@example.org.