An enterprising team of Stanford students has designed a low-cost, solar-powered home that could lead the home-building industry to a more sustainable future and guide homeowners toward greener behavior.
I n 2010, residential homes in the United States accounted for 22 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and roughly the same percentage of total energy consumption. At a time when market and federal pressures are steering the automobile industry toward a greener future, the places we lay our heads each night deserve a careful look as well.
The home-building industry represents a ripe opportunity for green innovation, and Stanford’s Start.Home hits the mark with a clever interdisciplinary blend of civil engineering, computer science and behavioral design. Conceived, designed and built by a team of undergraduate and graduate students, the solar-powered Start.Home aims to leverage technology to make inexpensive, sustainable living available to the masses.
At the project’s heart is the Core, a module containing all of the home’s major appliances, electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems, and run by software that keeps the home in its most energy-efficient state. The students envision a future housing market in which the Cores are built in a factory to maximize performance and quality control while reducing costs. Cores would then be shipped to construction sites to be hooked up to a building of the owner’s design. “We want to inspire industry to think about houses that can be built more like cars,” says project manager Derek Ouyang, ’13, a double major in civil engineering and architectural design. “The Core is like an engine for homes, and you can build any shell you want around it.”
Sustainable living doesn’t stop with the purchase of a home; a green home must inspire green people. To that end, the Start.Home is fully integrated with systems to guide homeowners toward more energy-responsible behavior – such as redesigned touchpad light switches throughout the house that glow to remind you to turn off unused electronics – and other devices that encourage reduced water consumption. “Ignorance stops here,” says Ouyang. “It is time to change our culture and our values around energy, and do it from the comfort of our own home.”
Take a tour of the Start.Home with Annie Scalmanini, ’11, MS ’13