Welcome to Empowerhouse Enginering. Empowerhouse
unites a group of students from Parsons, Milano and Stevens to design a new model of affordable,
healthy, site net-zero housing for Habitat for Humanity. The Empowerhouse team chose
to follow the rigorous Passive house building standard as a primary engineering driver.
Empowerhouse uses conventional components in a symbiotic relationship minimizing energy
consumption and creating an affordable system that provides the highest level of comfort.
It is built to conserve energy and reduces the site primary energy demand for heating
and cooling, domestic hot water and electrical household by 80%. The Passive House Planning
Package is used as the primary energy modeling tool. The engineering team improved the use
of the spreadsheet based tool improved the use of the spreadsheet based tool by interfacing
it with Rhinoceros 3D modeling software. This rapidly accelerates the iterative design process
by allowing the team to test designs for thermal effects on envelope design, glazing size and
orientation. Supporting the in depth thermal envelope design the team used therm for thermal
bridge analysis. The exterior envelope is super insulated and composed of a 1 inch thick
structural wall with vertically poised I-Joists filled with dense pack cellulose insulation.
They allow for greater depth and reduce thermal bridges to achieve an R-Value of 40 for the
wall assembly. Sheething materials integrate air and moisture barriers. The use of a furred
out interior wall to run service lines eliminates penetrations in this air tight envelope. The
Passive House certified windows and doors have frames that are thermally broken, and
glazing with varying coatings depending on solar orientation. Balancing energy demand
with the production of renewable solar electricity, a carefully scaled photovoltaic system on
the roof brings the house to site net-zero standard at low cost. Low flow fixtures increase
water savings through the use of aerators. Rainwater will be captured on the roof and
be a source to use for non potable water needs. An efficiently laid out plumbing system helps
reduces warm water heat losses. The mechanical system is simple and effective. The components
were selected with an emphasis on cost effectiveness, efficiency and reliability. The core components
consist of an energy recovery ventilator, ducted mini-split reversible heat pump, and
a heat pump water heater. Fresh preconditioned air flows from the ventilator directly into
the air handler Heat is recovered by the water heater from the exhaust of the condensing
dryer As air passes through a transfer duct excess heat is also removed from the inverter.
Cool, dehumidified air is exhausted from the water heater Where it is pulled into the return
and redistributed, reducing cooling loads These components work synergistically and
are synchronized by a central control system Many of the switches and sensors require no
wiring or batteries communicating information using available energy harvested at their
location through mechanical operation, photosensitivity or ambient heat. By visualizing energy consumption
and patterns of usage. A central control system empowers a “smart homeowner” to live more
efficiently. Empowerhouse demonstrates that a high performing, low-energy building is
the best way to provide sustainable affordable housing.