Hoboken, N.J., suffered some of the worst impacts of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, but students and faculty at the nearby Stevens Institute of Technology have long been determined to turn the disaster into a learning experience.

When the storm hit, more than 300 students organized the effort to assist the city by coordinating and supervising more than 5,000 volunteers who reported to City Hall to deliver water and supplies, rescue stranded citizens, and cook meals for city shelters. Since then, a new, interdisciplinary disaster studies class, “Sandy Studies,” has been developed to expose students to the real-world intersection of science and society and the pursuit of effective, responsible and inclusive innovation.

Now, the school’s 2015 Solar Decathlon team is putting some of the most important lessons learned from the storm into its disaster-proof entry, the Sure House. It will be on display at the Department of Energy’s prestigious biennial competition in Irvine, Calif., beginning Oct. 8.

Designed to meet the needs of middle- and working-class residents who live in the coastal areas of New Jersey and New York, the 1,000-square-foot modular house can withstand a storm the size and force of Hurricane Sandy, says Stevens president Nariman Farvardin.

“Hurricane Sandy devastated many houses on the Jersey Shore,” he says. “This Stevens team said, ‘We will build a house that will satisfy all of the constraints the Department of Energy has given us, but there is one other thing that we want to do – we will also build a house that is hurricane proof.’”

The Sure House takes into account the new flood maps issued by FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as well as the economic feasibility of innovative approaches to building in these neighborhoods. Features of the home include:

  • Fiber-composite materials that have been repurposed from the boat building industry, resulting in a building armored against extreme weather
  • Bi-folding storm shutters, made of a composite foam core and wrapped with fiberglass, installed to shade the home throughout the year and act as the primary defensive barrier against debris and water during inclement weather.
  • Use of self-generated clean solar power, reducing energy consumption to 90% less energy than conventional homes.
  • Ability to act as an emergency power hub for surrounding neighborhoods in the aftermath of a storm.