One of the most innovative, energy-efficient houses in the United States has been built in the District of Columbia’s working-class Deanwood neighborhood, which has struggled with foreclosures. The Empowerhouse, a residence that produces all of its own energy, consumes 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a conventional dwelling.
Empowerhouse was designed using “passive house” technologies as part of the Solar Decathlon design competition, held on the National Mall in 2011. It’s the work of students at The New School, in New York City, and Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. Each duplicable unit costs a locally affordable $250,000.
Bringing the community into the design process for both the house and landscape is the basis for collaboration on additional projects in the neighborhood, including a new community learning garden. The designers remark that it all plays a part in creating social sustainability, an aspect often left out of development programs.