When the word “empower” comes to mind, I think of someone pushing for change, a positive change . That is exactly what teams from The New School: Parsons School of Design, Parsons Milano School of International Affairs and Stevens Institute of Technology did at the Solar Decathlon competition. In a collaborative effort, they created the EMPOWERHOUSE to serve low-income communities with an eye for growing green. They did so in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity D.C., who will finish constructing the house once it leaves the National Mall for the Deanwood neighborhood of D.C.
The team brought the competition to a new level with their community-based approach (like these solutions for flooded communities) and commitment to providing low-income families affordable, green living options. Empowerhouse proved “passive houses” can be environmentally-friendly while still being cost-effective. The most affordable house in the competition, the team placed 13th overall. I’m hardly an expert on this stuff, or the other houses, but I believe this ranking does not do justice. Empowerhouse’s mission has a life outside of the competition. Yes, it was designed for the competition, but perhaps most importantly, it was also designed for a community, a family and a cause.
Empowerhouse was the only north/south oriented house in the competition, mirroring how the sun shines on Deanwood. The kitchen sink faces the back yard, so the owner—a single mom—can watch her three boys playing while doing housework. It’s a house built to be a home, built for living, and built for functionality. It was also built for something greater in mind–to empower communities and families across the nation.