Herricks H.S. Travels to California to Visit Solar Homes - EmPower Solar

Herricks H.S. Travels to California to Visit Solar Homes

Hi, Nora and Alan here!

We recently returned from an amazing to the U.S Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California! There were so many innovative designs, and each house had its own unique features that set it apart from the rest. Over the two days that we visited the Decathlon, we had a chance to visit each of the 14 houses made by college teams from all over the country. They were all very memorable, and here were some that stood out to us.

We had the opportunity to have dinner with Chris, the head of the U Buffalo team. Their GRoW home reflects the environment of their community, which consists of many self-subsistence farms. The most prominent feature of their house was their open design and gardens, which provided an ample supply of food all year. Even during the winter, when Buffalo receives up to several feet of snow, the GRoW house can withstand the cold weather while still maintaining an indoor garden. U Buffalo placed second overall at the Solar Decathlon, an impressive award they deserved.

The Shelter3 house was designed to withstand the duration and the aftermath of a tornado. The house is made of special polycarbonate materials reinforced in layers of other impact resistant materials. The house was divided into the wet and the dry module. The wet module contained the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room and the dry module contained the bedrooms. With its storm doors and windows, the house could survive the impact of a tornado, and its solar power generation could support its neighbors after the grid goes down.

The Nesthouse, designed by students from Missouri University of Science and Technology, was modeled based on the idea of repurposing discarded materials to create a comfortable yet efficient home. Inspired by the way birds make their nests, the students used shipping containers form the structure of their home. Upon entering the Nest, we found the inside very welcoming and suitable for an entire family. Around the entire exterior, they had vertical gardens lining some of the house, a tower garden, and a regular beautiful garden in front of the house.

On our last day, we were fortunate enough to be able to attend the Grand Prize Ceremony. By far the best design came from the SURE house from the Stevens Institute, who won first place overall. Inspired by the plight of the people living on the shore after Superstorm Sandy, the SURE house addressed the challenges people faced following the storm. Combining different architectural and engineering techniques, the Stevens team created home capable of recovering from natural disasters. The house featured insulating windows designed to be resistant to storm winds while remaining extremely energy efficient. During a storm, a set of walls could be brought down, covering the windows and sealing the inside of the home within a resilient shell. Congratulations to Stevens Institute and all the other teams who created such amazing homes!

Thank you Empower Solar for this experience!

Nora Koe and Alan Chen

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