As new students of the Solar Decathlon Class, we left New York toting backpacks, metro maps and our eagerness to finally see the EmpowerHouse one step closer to its permanent residence in Deanwood, Washington, D.C.
As we trekked across the grass and gray walkways of West Potomac Park, we finally reached the rows of futuristic houses that make up the Solar Decathlon competition. Lines of people ribboned around the houses waiting to see what sustainable curiosities were built into each structure.
We walked up the ramp of house 204 and an EmpowerHouse student waited at the front door to invite us in. Upon entering the house, we quickly forgot we were in a competition as we drifted through the light, airy spaces to the living room. At the back of the house a big square window looked out on to the back porch, where you could imagine the future partner family gazing through and watching the seasons change.
All the solar-powered houses in the competition had a unique aspect, but the EmpowerHouse’s casual, comfortable design felt not only like a sustainably engineered building, but a home that a family could share life’s moments.
One of the reasons this house is so livable is that the homeowner has the option of being connected to the community with the front porch, but can also opt for privacy with the back porch. The combined kitchen and living room space is also privately located at the rear of the structure.
Although there are no windows on the shared wall, there is plenty of natural light from the large rear windows. The house has a extra thick building envelope and has been constructed to be airtight, but the upper staircase windows allow light to cascade from above into the communal living areas and combine with the higher than average ceiling to create openness.
The EmpowerHouse has impressive sustainable aspects, but the livability of the house further enables the structure to be more than a house, it’s a sustainable home.