Feature Article /
Aug 31, 2017

Solar Decathlon: 8 Sustainable Products in the Northwestern University Solar Home


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Northwestern team debuts home at ribbon-cutting ceremony

The House by NU team debuts their design at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Evanston, Ill.

As part of the U.S. Department of Energy's biennial Solar Decathlon competition, the Enable home by Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., markets itself as a home where inhabitants may age in place, but it's also packed full of innovative, sustainable products.

Beyond sustainability, the team of students and faculty at Northwestern created a design that would take the local market into account, making aging-in-place and combatting the Chicagoland winter climate top priorities along with the home's solar capabilities.

In their research, the House by Northwestern (NU) team found that only 1 percent of the current housing stock is suitable for people to age in place, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. They seek to fill this hole in the housing market with their design featuring zero-step entrances, single-floor living, wide hallways and doorways, wheelchair-accessible light switches, and lever-style door handles and faucets.

All this while keeping up with the competition’s high standards of sustainability. The House by NU team found a way to design a solar home that can power more than its own needs year-round (it also powers a solar car through a charging station), despite their target client having other priorities.

“House by NU 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,”  the team says.

Here are eight of the sustainable products they used in their home.

This story is part of a series covering the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial Solar Decathlon competition, which will conclude in Denver, Colo., this October. Leading up to the event, the PRODUCTS team is bringing you the coolest green building and design products in a number of the 13 competing universities’ homes.

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