The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a competition that challenges 20 collegiate teams to design and build a cutting-edge sustainable house. Held every two years since 2002 on the National Mall in Washington, the competition draws throngs of visitors during its ten-day run. The houses though are typically then transported across the country or around the world and then back to the schools where they were built. This time around we, the Empowerhouse team (comprising of students from Parsons The New School for Design, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, and the Stevens Institute of Technology) together with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C., and the D.C. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are turning our demonstration house into a permanent, two-family home in Deanwood. Following our completion, Habitat for Humanity plans to sell both units as affordable housing to Deanwood community members. Greater Deanwood is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Washington D.C. and has a rich history of community activism. Deanwood is notable for its small-town character, with wood-frame and brick homes that date from the early 20th century.
Several well-known African-American architects, including W. Sidney Pittman and Howard D. Woodson, and many skilled local craftsmen designed and built its homes. As one of the greenest neighborhoods in D.C., residents recently participated in the CarbonFree DC “Extreme Green Neighborhood Makeover,” which retrofitted low and moderate-income homes. Deanwood and its surrounding neighborhoods are undergoing a powerful revitalization with economic development and environmental sustainability as key components of the resurgence. The Empowerhouse project will lend strength to continued efforts to make Deanwood a more sustainable community. The relationship built with Deanwood via the Solar Decathlon has resulted in the development of “outside the competition” projects, as the capacity to make a deeper impact in the community beyond the houses was realized. These initiatives are showcased here. We look forward to comments, questions, and feedback, and look forward to any requests for involvement.