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SU+RE House Case Study


College students won top honors at a Department of Energy contest for their prototype house featuring HI-MACS solid surface countertops. A team from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, was working on its submission to a national contest when Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012.

The school suffered minor flooding from the storm, but other areas of New Jersey were hit much harder. The superstorm caused $29 billion in damage, knocked out power for up to 10 days for some residents, killed more than 280 people and destroyed or damaged nearly 350,000 homes in New Jersey.


Though it was too late to change course for that year's contest, the storm inspired the team's 2015 entry to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

For the decathlon, held every other year, 20 college teams are tasked to build houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.


The Stevens Institute of Technology team got to work on a plan for housing that could withstand the damage caused by Sandy and fit the parameters of the contest.

The result was the SU+RE HOUSE, a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom home that can rebuff flooding and generate its own power while using 90 percent less energy than conventional housing.

house 2

"It turned out beautifully; it felt like a '60s beach cottage with a touch of modern applied to it," said A. J. Elliott, the electrical engineer and communications lead on the SU+RE HOUSE project.

The team's design, which included HI-MACS solid surface countertops from LG Hausys in the kitchen and bathroom, won top honors in the contest.

Marvel Of Technology

The Stevens team chose the HI-MACS product for the kitchen countertops for several reasons, Elliott said.

The reasons are:

  • The nonporous material is resistant to bacteria, mildew and mold, critical for postflood cleanup.

  • The material's white hue fit the beach cottage's design perfectly, giving the cottage a bright look even if the lights aren't turned on.

  • With the lights on, the material's luster perfectly highlighted the color-shifting lighting design installed in the house.

  • The material could be molded and installed into textured, three-dimensional rectangles for the kitchen backsplash.

  • The color-shifting lighting is another high-tech touch of the SU+RE HOUSE. The LED lights are programmed to shift throughout the day to match the colors outside. They are bluer in the morning and more orange at night.

  • lighting

    "The intent is to match the lighting in the house to the owner's circadian rhythm, which improves sleep patterns. The HI-MACS countertops highlighted the effect beautifully," Eliot said.

    "Having the white material to shine those lights on really made it more impactful," he said.

    Continuity of Design

    As part of the money-saving design, the kitchen and bathroom share the west side of the house. In addition to the cost savings, this design minimizes heat loss through the ducts and gives centralized access to basic necessities. Also, the two rooms share the HI-MACS countertop materials.

    But the bathroom introduced a new challenge for the Stevens team: building a functional bathroom in an extremely narrow and long room.

    The solution?


    Two rows of solid countertop along the entirety of the wall, from the bathroom sink right into the shower.

    The unusual design, made possible by the HI-MACS countertops, allowed the team to offer the features needed in a bathroom and keep it within ADA requirements for wheelchair access.

    bathroom door

    The lower row of shelving serves as storage and comes in handy in the shower, for shampoo and soap but also for the room's dual purpose as a mudroom. The shower, which is made of the same wood as the deck, has a door leading outside.

    "If you've been surfing or enjoying some other beach activity, you can come right into the shower instead of tracking dirt and sand throughout the rest of the house," Elliott said.

    Wrapping Up


    The SU+RE HOUSE offered another complication not often found in other projects: It had to be moved.

    The Stevens Institute of Technology is in New Jersey, and the contest took place in California. The team built the house to be separated into three pieces and shipped across the country.

    "The HI-MACS materials withstood the move beautifully," Elliott said.

    Now that the contest is over, the house has been broken down again, and the school would like to bring it back to New Jersey to put it on display. The students and their advisor were pleased with their decision to use HI-MACS as well as the services of the LG Hausys team.

    "They were a pleasure to work with," Elliott said.

    Ed May (Stevens Institute of Technology)
    Arctic White

    SU+RE House Case Study