About HBN

The house

The House by Northwestern (HBN) team is designing and building a house that combines modern construction practices and energy efficiency with features our potential homebuyers have told us they would like to have. The result will be a sustainable home that is well-adapted for the extreme seasons of the Chicago climate and minimizes the impact on the surrounding environment. Our house is named Enable, which stands for two of our core tenets: Energized, which refers both to energy-efficiency and an active lifestyle, and Adaptable, which means this is a house that can fit many roles. Enable will be 90% more energy efficient than the average home in Evanston.

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For more details about design features of Enable, visit the "Our House" page.

Vivien, our interiors lead, understands what our target market wants better than anyone, and has done hundreds of hours of research since last fall to incorporate their needs and preferences into our design.


 After completing construction this fall, HBN will load our house onto several trucks and ship it the 1,000 miles that separate Evanston, IL from Denver, CO. Here, we will join 12 other university teams from places ranging from California to Switzerland for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition of 10 contests that challenge student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency. 

Solar Decathlon is more than a competition. It’s an intensive learning experience for consumers and homeowners as they experience the latest technologies and materials in energy-efficient design, clean energy technologies, smart home solutions, water conservation measures, electric vehicles, and sustainable buildings. 


House by Northwestern envisions a world where renewable energy is commonplace and readily available. We seek to reinvigorate our community at large about new and expanding types of green technology. Finally, we hope to educate our target demographic and general public about how living sustainably does not need to feel like a sacrifice. 

For aging individuals, the United States housing stock is relatively barren, especially when price is factored in. More and more, adults between 55-65 years old intend to "age in place," or stay in their homes or communities. Because these Baby Boomers expect to age in their homes well into their 70s and 80s, their houses become important places for long-term care as residents deal with disabilities and other aging-related health challenges. Over the next 20 years, the population of individuals over 65 will grow by 30 million. In the City of Evanston, Northwestern's home, 20% of the population is projected to be 65 and older by 2020, up from 15% in 2014. However, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University estimates only 1 percent of the current housing stock to be suitable for people to age in place–the other 99% lacks key features required to support aging-in-place, such as zero-step entrances, single-floor living, wide hallways and doorways, wheelchair-accessible light switches, and lever-style door handles and faucets. It is with this housing shortage in mind that the Solar Decathlon team at Northwestern University set about designing a highly energy-efficient yet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible home for an aging Baby Boomer demographic.