DC University Students Unveil ‘Harvest Home’

August 30, 2013 Updated: August 29, 2013

Washington—A net-zero energy, prefab home built by students from Catholic University of America (CAU), George Washington University (GWU), and American University(AU) will be secured on a two flatbed trucks and driven across to Irvine, Calif. 

Team Capitol DC’s solar home will be displayed and compete with other collegiate-built sustainable, energy-efficient homes in the Department of Energy’s 2013 Solar Decathlon, Oct. 3 to Oct. 13. 

On Oct. 27 at CUA, the team unveiled “Harvest” to the local public. The home built around the concept of the harvest, harnesses energy from the natural environment to not only provide electricity to the home but also to add to the quality of life of the home’s resident. The home “harvests” energy from the sun, rain, and wind, food, and its own energy, while surrounded by a large garden, according to Bridgette Meinhold of inhabitat.com.

After the competition at Irvine is over, the Harvest Home will be donated to the San Diego office of the Wounded Warrior Homes, a Vista, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that provides a transitional housing program for wounded military service members with traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to receive this residence for our wounded warriors,” said Mia Roseberry, co-founder and executive director of Wounded Warrior Homes in an Aug. 27 press release (http://fortstewart.patch.com/groups/going-green/p/wounded-warrior-is-the-recipient-of-a-sustainable-home). 

“The home is an ideal addition to our transitional housing program because it is custom-designed to meet the needs of returning troops, who may be physically injured or struggling as a result of their recent military experience,” Roseberry writes.

Julia Coffou a George Washington alumni and member of the design team said that they followed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines to create a space that meets the needs of a disabled military service men. 

The Harvest Home with its modern look is separated into two modules: the living and dining space and the bedroom space. Joining the two spaces is a transition space that serves as a closet and laundry room. 

Earth natural materials and earth tones are utilize throughout the exterior and interior of the home, including wood siding and bamboo plywood bedroom storage units built in collaboration with District Design Works. 

The floors in the home were harvested from an old church in Ohio.

“Finding a way to reuse and bring life to the materials was our goal,” said Coffou. 

The space was designed to optimize the use of natural light. Sun exposure follows the use of the home, explained Coffou. Warm sun rays hit the morning deck and enter into the eastward-facing bedroom lined with rectangular western windows positioned just below the ceiling to let in ample light without compromising privacy. 

The bedroom space flows into an enclosed transition space with a doorway, where the two modules are joined. 

The sunlight is also harvested by solar panels that cover 70 percent of the roof space.

In the afternoon and evening, Flexional® actuator wires control the bright green external window shutters. The shutters open when cool at 60 degrees, and the wires contract closing the shutters at 72 degrees.

“I think it’s beautiful. But I’m biased,” said Liz Esposito, a second year Masters student in Architecture and Sustainable design at CUA. 

Esposito is one of the over 100 students and faculty members at CUA, AU, and GWU, who have been at this project since work started in the fall of 2011, followed by construction in Feb. 2013. 

Community partners donated financial resources, time, and materials to the Harvest project including the Standard Solar, Clark Construction and Schneider Electric.