"Empowerhouse" Sets Tone in Deanwood

Award winning, affordable green housing comes to Northeast DC

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com

    Two families will achieve the dream of home ownership in a Deanwood duplex that has won national awards for cutting edge design, sustainability and affordability.

    The solar-powered house -- dubbed Empowerhouse -- won the Energy Department's Solar Decathlon and was one of several entries exhibited on the National Mall September 23 - October 2, 2011.

    Hundreds of students from the New School and Stevens Institute of Technology worked on the design and engineering of the home. Their goal was to build a house that produces all of its own energy needs for $230,000. They came in $20,000 under budget, according to Michael Kelley, the director of the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

    The Empowerhouse team of students from Parsons The New School for Design, the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School and Stevens Institute of Technology partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C., and the D.C. government to bring the house to Deanwood.

    One of the first occupants will be Lakiya Culley, an administrative assistant at the State Department and mother of three young boys. She cut a large red ribbon on the front porch today to celebrate the completion of the home she will close on in January.

    “My experience with Habitat for Humanity has been nothing but pleasant,” Culley said, smiling widely.

    “I’ve met so many people and the volunteers that came out – it’s amazing that so many people are happy to come out and work, not for money but to help others.”

    Culley noted that she has also learned to frame a house and that she helped build her house, her neighbor’s house and some homes in another neighborhood.

    City officials noted that Empowerhouse’s extraordinary energy efficiency will also lower the homeowners' bills, a key component of successful affordable housing.

    “It's one thing to bring a low income house into a home at an affordable rate, it's another thing to keep a family there by making sure their operating costs become manageable,” Kelley said.

    Meanwhile Sheila Johnson, co-owner of three Washington sports teams, New School trustee and former chair of The New School Board of Governors, chided the media for not having a greater presence at the ribbon-cutting.

    “We need housing like this in Washington,” she said. “This is just the beginning, and I’m so sad that we don’t have more media coverage today, because of all the things that are going on, despite the Redskins win last night, this needs to be covered because this is really the future."