Stevens Builds an Ecohabitat

Stevens Institute of Technology designed and built an L-shaped Ecohabitat for this year’s Solar Decathlon. Ecohabitat performed well and tied for 1st place in Hot Water and received 2nd place in Architecture.  It also received 1st place in Energy Balance by making more solar energy than the house used.  The overall cost of the house with all the appliances included was $290,686.

Visitors line up to see the Ecohabitat.

Visitors line up to see Ecohabitat.


The Solar Decathlon truly tests a home’s performance.  For example, in order to receive a score in the Entertainment event, each team must host two dinner parties and screen an accompanying film.  This tests the home’s general electrical systems and the combined efficiency of the appliances. They aren’t sitting around saving electricity and using candles.  They’re watching films on large screen TVs, making multi-course meals and leaving the lights on.  It’s all powered by the sun.  Here are the Dinner Menus and Recipes from Stevens University (19 page pdf).

Photo Gallery

I toured the EcoHabitat during the public open hours. Sure it’s filled with people, but it’s all in good fun. Click or tap on an image to see it in a larger format. Click or tap the right side of the image to view the next image.


  • Transparent doors fold away to provide access to two large decks sheltered by a large solar roof overhang.
  • The architectural design splits the house into separate “dry” and “wet” modules to allow for an energy-efficient distribution for the plumbing system.
  • The modular interior space includes a master bedroom, a bathroom, and a flex room that can become a home office or second bedroom.
  • The green roof and wall help insulate the house and collect rainwater for irrigating plants.
  • A central machine room functions as the “brain” of the house.



  • An integrated photovoltaic system maximizes the use of available space and powers the house without large roof panels.
  • An on-demand hot water system heats water when needed.
  • Bio-phase-change material allows the house to harness the sun’s energy and heat during the day and release it into the house at night.
  • The misting system collects condensate from inside the house and uses it to mist the exterior HVAC unit, increasing its efficiency.
  • The smart energy management system monitors weather patterns, the habits of occupants, and their energy use to create a comfortable and energy-efficient living environment.


Back section of Stevens' home

A view of the Stevens’ home from the southwest showing the two different sections.

Final Overall Score

They finished in 4th place with a total of 939.176 points.

They finished in 4th place with a total of 939.176 points.


A student from Stevens explains how the phase change materials within the house work.

All of the teams achieved really fantastical* great accomplishments in the Solar Decathlon to design, build, finish, dismantle, transport, rebuild, compete in the competition and display the homes (with a smile, over and over and over again) to help educate the public. They all had amazing, sometimes arduous, yet highly educational and rewarding experiences. The final score is a summation of task completion, monitored performance of the homes and jury evaluations within 10 events.

*The best nonword to describe the HUGE experience each team went through in order to participate in the Solar Decathlon. It’s for the strong. It’s not for wimps.
Features and technologies sections from

Visit the team’s website:



Keya Lea

Keya Lea likes to spend time outside, enjoying the sun.

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