Monday, September 13, 2010

Passive Solar House Coming to Deanwood

Parsons and the Stevens Institute of Technology, in conjunction with the DC Department of Housing and Community Development and the DC Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, are taking their passive solar house design from the National Mall and bringing it to Deanwood in Ward 7. The design team for emPowerhouse also includes Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, coalescing expertise from the fields of design, management, and engineering, and operating under the guidelines of the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition, in a unique effort to unite
competition-level design with sustainable and affordable development.

Sponsors held a "Site Warming" event in Deanwood yesterday, which celebrated the upcoming Spring 2011 groundbreaking on the residences. Laura Briggs of Parsons's School of Constructed Environment reported that over 100 students have been involved in the course of the project. "It takes that many people to do a job like this," she commented, noting that students from multiple disciplines, including architecture, engineering, planning, policy, management, communications, product, lighting, and even fashion design have been collaborating on the project. John Clinton, Associate Professor of Sustainability at Milano - The New School for Management and Urban Policy added "[w]e wanted to provide opportunities for the community to learn about sustainability and infuse it in the design process. We also wanted to go from the house to housing." In a public address at the event, Sylvia Brown, ANC- 7C04, called the occasion a "monumental step." She hopes that conventional developers will have to contend with a new standard of housing in Ward 7, once the project is finished in October of 2011.

The Parsons (officially Parsons - The New School for Design) design team was selected as a finalist for the biennial Solar Decathlon Competition, next held on the Mall in the fall of 2011. The team is working on design at all scales: neighborhood and building, and even on fixtures and appliances. Taking into consideration the sun's path during different months of the year and the layout of the street grid in Deanwood, the plan adjusts the orientation of the buildings on the site to maximize southern exposure and thermal retention. The houses are designed to reach their optimum energy efficiency when they are side by side as a duplex, so the ultimate goal is to erect them both in Deanwood, providing the community with an affordable model for an innovative energy-efficient home.

With input from the Stevens Institute of Technology, which brought engineers into the design process, the design team is planning for a cellulose-insulated building envelope with R-values in the 40s and 60s, a Zehnder energy recovery ventilator system to heat and cool the houses, as well as hybrid photovoltaic-thermal cells, which not only generate electrical energy from the sun, but collect thermal energy reserves to offset solar cell energy loss, which occurs when solar cells heat up and their thermal resistance increases. Sinks with built-in greywater filtration devices and on-site storm water management
through an underground collection cistern and rain gardens are also under consideration.

The transition to Deanwood came when Shana Mosher, a student with connections to both Parsons and DC local government contacted ANC rep Sylvia Brown and Dennis Chestnut, Founder of the Ward 7 Non-Profit Network, and matched the idea of a Decathlon-worthy home with DC neighborhood development. As part of the community-building, the team is producing monthly newsletters with background information about Deanwood, Habitat for Humanity's efforts to improve storm water runoff by installing rain gardens in the neighborhood, and analysis on how the layout of a neighborhood affects passive house design.

The Deanwood neighborhood is no stranger to sustainable development practices. A participant in the the CarbonFree DC "Extreme Green Neighborhood Makeover," which retrofits existing homes with green features and, as of July 22nd, has gotten funding to retrofit 20 additional homes in the DC area, Deanwood residents have been given a hand in caulking drafty windows, weather-stripping doors and windows, converting to smart power strips that monitor idle vampire usage, exchanging incandescents for compact flourescents, and gardening.

"We anticipate a 10% cost increase, which will be paid back in seven years. With 90% increased efficiency, for a 30-year note, that is $60,000 in savings," estimated David Gano, the Habitat for Humanity construction manager on the site. Habitat, which acts as a guarantor for low and middle income families that decide to partner with the organization, is in the process of selecting residents for the much-anticipated pilot housing in Deanwood.


Anonymous said...

It is wonderful that educational intitution, habitat for humanity and DOE can produce an energy efficent home and placing an affordable housing project in a needy neighborhood. It sshows what team work can do.

Anonymous said...

OH They are finally doing something.

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