Empowerhouse is the result of a community-based approach to building affordable, site net-zero housing that addresses all aspects of domestic life.

Community Connection

A rendering of Empowerhouse's porch in the Deanwood Community

A rendering of Empowerhouse’s porch in the Deanwood Community

After the competition Empowerhouse will be moved to the D.C. neighborhood of Deanwood, where it will become a home for a family selected by Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. Deanwood is 10 miles from the National Mall. Keeping the house in the Distric of Columbia has reduced our carbon footprint by limiting shipping distance from the competition site.


Greater Deanwood is a vibrant, historically African American community and one of the oldest neighborhoods in Northeast Washington D.C. with homes that date from the early 20th century. Deanwood is currently undergoing a powerful revitalization with economic development and environmental sustainability as key components of the resurgence.


We found partners in the community that are energetic civic activists, dedicated to environmental initiatives. In cooperation with D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Sylvia Brown, we selected our site on Gault Place for its ample access to southern sunlight, a key criterion of an energy-efficient, solar powered house.

Empowerhouse is intended to be a hub for community involvement, exchange and learning. Our team is using Empowerhouse as an educational tool for the greater Deanwood community. Open workshops and public policy advocacy are part of Empowerhouse’s aims to create change in Deanwood.


In addition to working with community members in Deanwood to guide the design of our house, the team is hosting community workshops focusing on the various aspects of sustainable living incorporated into Empowerhouse including rainwater systems, photovoltaic panels, and Passive House principles.


Empowerhouse will be placed in a neighborhood after the competition, requiring our team to follow not only Solar Decathlon rules and regulations, but also those of local DC zoning and building codes. Our Project meets the Enterprise Community Partners’ Green Communities Criteria. The team is looking at how aspects of this house exceeds certain standards required by Enterprise and other local policies.


Our team has developed several lots at Deanwood’s Lederer Youth Garden with fruit and vegetable plantings, which will sustain the new home as well as the local food bank, extending the sphere of the home into the city. We are currently designing a neighborhood Learning Garden in partnership with Groundwork Anacostia.