our house

I want to walk into a home and feel happy that I live here.
— Carol, local community member

Like the Olympic decathlon, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon consists of 10 contests. Enable will be judged through contests that evaluate cost-effective design, innovation balanced with market potential, water and energy efficiency, energy production and time-of-use energy, and communications strategies. Six of these contests are juried, and four will be measured.

Because Enable is designed for Baby Boomers interested in aging-in-place, Enable meets accessibility requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act and has features that support the future needs of its residents – such as zero-step entrances, single-floor living, wide hallways and  doorways, wheelchair-accessible light switches, and lever-style door handles and faucets.

The audiovisual presentation of the Northwestern University team, competing in Solar Decathlon 2017, October 5-15 in Denver, Colorado. 

ARCHITECTURE CONTEST (juried)

Teams are required to design and build attractive, high-performance houses that integrate solar and energy efficiency technologies seamlessly into the design.

Enable is 994 square ft., has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and is designed to meet accessibility requirements – such as wheelchair accessibility – outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Enable is 994 square ft., has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and is designed to meet accessibility requirements – such as wheelchair accessibility – outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

OUR RESPONSE:

  • The physical design of Enable’s massing and layout as well as the careful selection of its systems and materials make our house both energy-efficient and adaptable across spaces and throughout seasons.
  • Employed a new roof-integrated solar system to improve aesthetics and performance while lowering installation costs.
  • Used super-insulated exterior walls for optimum weatherization for Chicago winters.
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MARKET POTENTIAL CONTEST (juried)

Each team is required to design a primary residence for year-round occupancy for a specific target client of its choosing. A jury of professionals from the homebuilding industry will evaluate the overall attractiveness of the design to the target client and the market impact potential of the house.

Member of our target demographic joined our interior design team on more than 20 shopping trips.

Member of our target demographic joined our interior design team on more than 20 shopping trips.

OUR RESPONSE:

  • Identified Baby Boomers (aged 55-70) as target clients to address unmet housing needs.
  • Through hundreds of hours of interviews and research, we listened carefully to the voice of the customer.
  • Learned that sustainability is not our target clients’ top priority in housing, but functionality, adaptability, and beauty.
  • Integrated a smart home system and energy center to enhance home’s market value.

ENGINEERING CONTEST (juried) 

Photometric modeling was used to develop an effective lighting plan for Enable.

Photometric modeling was used to develop an effective lighting plan for Enable.

A jury of engineers will evaluate the engineering design and implementation of each team's house.

OUR RESPONSE:

  • Created the most efficient home possible while maintaining all desired programatic and architectural features.
  • Reduced our energy consumption by first using energy modeling and form changes, then passive systems, and finally active systems to meet all the needs of the home. 
  • Provided intuitive and easy to use controls for all thermal comfort and smart home systems
  • Home requires equal to or less than the amount of maintenance required for a regular home.

COMMUNICATIONS CONTEST (JURIED)

Teams must develop and implement communications strategies to engage their local communities, provide free tours to visitors during the event in Denver, and make an impact across the world through their digital presence and media outreach. A jury of communications professionals will evaluate each team's communication strategies, materials, and efforts to educate, inform, and interest the public.

OUR APPROACH:

In addition to developing messaging pillars, the communications team deploys Weekly 360 degree videos of our house. 

In addition to developing messaging pillars, the communications team deploys Weekly 360 degree videos of our house. 

  • Developed and promoted key messages. Our house supports aging in place, is net positive, environmentally responsible, durable and high value, and reflects values of local community.
  • Combined in-person interactions, press relations, and social media to engage four main audiences: target demographic (Baby Boomers in Chicago's North Shore), local community, environmentally conscious individuals and organizations, and Northwestern University
  • Strengthened relationships with community members and sponsors, sought out new connections to bolster our support and network
  • Employed diverse content ranging from educational material to daily house updates

INNOVATION CONTEST (JURIED)

By using computer-aided design to custom build Enable's walls, HBN eliminates construction waste and added material costs.

By using computer-aided design to custom build Enable's walls, HBN eliminates construction waste and added material costs.

The Innovation Contest encourages teams to take a thoughtful approach to innovation, rather than being limited solely to off-the-shelf solutions. A jury of industry professionals will evaluate each team's approach to innovation, from design to execution.

OUR RESPONSE:

  • Focused on the framework that full innovation is the creation and capture of value.
  • Used object-oriented programming to create 3D experiences and parts list/cost in real time.
  • Utilized pre-fabricated modular interior walls to cut down on construction waste.
  • Introduced roof-integrated solar panels installed by trained roofing contractors.
  • Applied photocatalytic coatings for sunlight to clean indoor and outdoor air.
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WATER CONTEST (JURIED)

Diagram of Enable's self-watering planters.

Diagram of Enable's self-watering planters.

Water and energy are inextricably linked—it takes water to make the energy we use, and it takes energy to treat and deliver the clean water we require. A jury of industry professionals will evaluate each team's approach to water conservation, use, and reuse.

OUR RESPONSE:

  • As part of an adaptable, energy-efficient home that allows its residents to safely enjoy seasonal indoor and outdoor activities, Enable’s water-efficient appliances and tightly-sealed building envelope make water conservation a seamless part of home life.

  • Enable's rainwater catchment system feeds its self-watering planters, making planter maintenance both easy and water-efficient for its residents,

HEALTH AND COMFORT CONTEST (MEASURED)

Teams are challenged to build a house that minimizes the flow of cooled air in summer or heated air in winter to the outdoors, operate heating and cooling systems that keep temperature and humidity steady, all while maintaining healthy indoor air quality.

Source: PURETi Windows and surfaces treated with PURETi use sunlight to improve indoor air quality by destroying VOCs in the air.  

Source: PURETi

Windows and surfaces treated with PURETi use sunlight to improve indoor air quality by destroying VOCs in the air.

 

OUR RESPONSE:

  • Enable is thoroughly designed with the health and comfort of its residents in mind. Enable uses robust insulation and windows, as well as passive and active techniques to reduce heating and cooling loads. The primary component of the HVAC system is a high-efficiency air-source heat pump, the Chiltrix CX34. The Nest Learning Thermostat helps the users make the most of this system.

  • In addition to its ventilation system, Enable features AirRenew Drywall by CertainTeed, which absorbs formaldehyde; PURETi, a photocatalytic titanium dioxide coating that removes VOCs; and Awair, a smart device which monitors indoor air quality and provides feedback via a smart phone/tablet app.  

APPLIANCES CONTEST (MEASURED)

Teams earn points for operating their refrigerator and freezer, washing and drying laundry, simulating cooking tasks and hot showers.

Source: Energy Star

Source: Energy Star

OUR RESPONSE:

  • Enable’s appliances are supplied by Beko. Beko was named 2017 Energy Star (R) Partner of the Year by the EPA. The company has earned Energy Star certification for over 90% of their Beko and Blomberg products in the US market.

HOME LIFE CONTEST (MEASURED)

Teams are required to engage in a variety of activities just like real homeowners. They share meals with friends and neighbors, watch television, use their computers, and host games nights. They even commute in an electric vehicle charged from the house's solar electric system.

OUR RESPONSE:

The HBN team has fun with its new BMW i3 electric vehicle.

The HBN team has fun with its new BMW i3 electric vehicle.

  • When it comes to entertaining, Enable easily adapts from a home to an effective entertaining space. The dining table expands to seat up to 10 people. The party can spill into the sunroom for more space or onto the north deck for some fresh air. 
  • All light fixtures are controlled by the Lutron and Caseta system, which allows occupants to dim all light fixtures, schedule when they are turned on, and create custom lighting scenes and programs. 
  • We will be taking the BMW i3 to the competition in Denver. Not only is the BMW i3 completely electric and sustainably manufactured, it is spacious, quiet, and (most importantly) fun to drive. 

energy contest (measured)

For energy production, teams receive full points for producing at least as much energy as its house needs, thus achieving a net energy consumption of zero during the competition. 

Enable's solar panels are integrated into the roof. These panels last as long and look almost the same as regular roofing.

Enable's solar panels are integrated into the roof. These panels last as long and look almost the same as regular roofing.

OUR RESPONSE:

  • Enable has 22 Sunmodule Plus 295 W solar panels integrated into the roofing. Coupled with Enable’s high efficiency, the solar array is projected to produce more electricity than will be consumed, exceeding the contest's criteria. 
  • Enable features the Wiser Energy Center by Schneider Electric, an electrical monitoring system that monitors every circuit in the house and provides an easy to use interface.