Titled “Enable,” the all solar-powered house is Northwestern University’s first-ever entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. It was constructed on an empty lot in Evanston, Illinois, and will be shipped to Denver, Colorado, for the competition. Photo courtesy of House by Northwestern.
Northwestern University is throwing its hardhat into the ring and taking part for the first time in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. The biennial collegiate competition, which will take place in Denver, Colorado, Oct. 5-15, challenges teams of students from around the world to design and build an innovative, full-size solar-powered house. The newbie team isn’t going it alone, however. Among the healthy list of public and private partners and sponsors is Thornton Tomasetti, which provided pro bono engineering consulting and is a Gold-level sponsor of the project.
“The students designed, coordinated and helped build nearly every component of the house,” said Christian DeFazio, who served as our main contact with the House by Northwestern team. “It was a great opportunity for them to work on a project with real-world implications.” Christian also worked with the students on calculations, framing plans, rigging design and drawings. Northwestern alumnus Robert Sinn served as engineer of record, and John Viise helped with the foundation design and finalizing the permit package.
At the public unveiling in late August, visitors explored the two-bedroom, two-bath house, which is designed for the aging baby boomer generation. Photo courtesy of House by Northwestern.
Made up of approximately 50 students from diverse disciplines such as engineering, design, sciences and the arts, the House by Northwestern team designed their single-story, 994-square-foot house, titled “Enable,” for the baby boomer generation and to support aging in place. The project took two years of design and planning and three months of construction, with the help of carpenters from Power Construction. It debuted to the public on Aug. 23 in an empty lot in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago.
The two-bedroom, two-bath, timber-framed house was prefabricated into three modules, each approximately 35 feet by 11 feet. It features roof solar panels, ultra-efficient heating and cooling systems and photocatalytic exterior surfaces that break down airborne pollutants. It was designed for the weather extremes of the Chicagoland area, and will be 90 percent more energy efficient than the average home in the community, where it will return to a permanent site after the competition.
A rendering of the fully assembled house. Courtesy of House by Northwestern.
Thornton Tomasetti assisted with structural analysis, design and detailing as well as with construction logistics, rigging during transportation and crane lifts. We helped the students place timber columns within the interior walls, recommended column placement to reduce roof spans and maintain the open architecture of the living room, and helped support the roof framing and beam pockets in the exterior walls. We also coordinated various materials on the project, such as joining of the sawn lumber with the prefabricated wall panels for the interior (non-bearing) walls and the exterior bearing wall panels provided by a different supplier.
The house under construction earlier this summer. Photo courtesy of House by Northwestern.
After its systems were tested locally, the house was broken down into three fully constructed modules and shipped by FedEx (a sponsor) trailers to Denver where it will be rebuilt for the decathlon. As its name suggests, the Solar Decathlon consists of 10 contests in the following categories: architecture, market potential, engineering, communications, innovation, water, health and comfort, appliances, home life, and energy. The 16 participating teams will be judged on cost-effectiveness, innovation, market potential, water and energy efficiency, energy production and time-of-use energy, and communications strategies. This year’s decathlon is the first to have a cash prize, which will range from $100,000 for the team that comes in fifth and $300,000 for first place.
To learn more about the project, track the team’s progress and see the full list of sponsors, click here.
Follow these topics: