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Northwestern University

A Solar-Powered House by Northwestern

House by Northwestern received some of their funding for the project through the Northwestern Sustainability Fund (NSF). This fund provides one-time grants for student-led sustainability efforts. Visit the NSF website to submit a proposal for funding for this year. 

One of the newest construction projects on campus isn’t an academic building or residence hall. It’s a solar-powered house, and it’s being designed by Northwestern undergraduates.

House by Northwestern (HBN) is Northwestern University’s first-ever entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, an international competition that challenges university students to design, build, and operate solar-powered energy efficient homes. The competition, which will take place in Denver on October 2017, evaluates the homes in 10 categories including architecture, engineering, energy, innovation, market potential, and communications.

Designed for a baby boomer couple living on Chicago’s North Shore, the house will blend technology, market potential, and design excellence with smart energy production and maximum efficiency. It will be a sustainable home that is well-adapted for the extreme seasons of the Chicago region and has a minimal impact on the surrounding environment. The HBN team will seek several green building certifications for the project, including LEED Platinum, Passive House, and ENERGY STAR. The design team expects the home to be 90 percent more energy efficient than the average home in the community. 

A core team of students has been working on the architectural plans and researching energy efficient technologies for the 1,000 square foot home since spring of 2016. The team will wrap up the architectural designs this fall and winter, and construction will begin in spring 2017. Next fall, the HBN team will ship the house to Denver for the Decathlon.

"I was drawn to the Solar Decathlon because it is a hands-on project with real world results and applications,” said Bill Bach, a junior civil engineering major who serves as project manager for House by Northwestern. “It's really amazing how far we have progressed and how much we have learned on this project. Neither I nor any of the other team members have ever designed an actual home before, but that did not stop us from learning as we moved along,” he said.

Ask any of the team members, and they’ll say that building a house requires every skill set you could imagine. And there is still time to join the team. HBN is looking for people to help out with social media and communications, market research, drafting and technical drawing, and more. Students can even earn credits for their work on the project. Email hello@northwestern.house if you are interested in an independent study for market research or user-centered design research.

To learn more, and keep up with the progress on the house visit the House by Northwestern website, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or sign up to receive updates.

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