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Affordable And Adaptable Houses For First-Time Homeowners

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaigns’ Solar Decathlon 2020 entry, focused on a growing market of young professional homeowners seeking an affordable home that can adapt to their growing needs. The house was called the ADAPTHAUS because the team designed the house with several features that can be altered to function for multiple purposes and be altered as the owner’s need arises. Although the house is just 1200 square feet, it lives larger with all the necessities needed in the home. Furniture can be altered to meet a variety of needs such as the Murphy bed in the living room which can expand the sleeping space. The house was built with a modular system to which the homeowner can add additional modules and expand the space if the need arises. The bathroom has a rimless shower that makes it adaptable for all people of all abilities and grab bars for those who may need extra security. This is in keeping with Universal Design concepts.

The team did extensive research to find out what type of housing was needed in the city of Champaign, IL. They found that many young professionals were losing out on home ownership because of the rising costs of homes and the heavy debts they leave school with. Young people today are also particularly interested in sustainable and energy efficient homes, preferring those requiring minimal maintenance. With this population’s dynamic lifestyles, they would rather be spending time on activities, such as biking and hiking, than working on home projects. The ADAPTHAUS team addressed those issues in the design and size of their home. According to the team, “The ‘ADAPTHAUS’ project’s main purpose, apart from participating in the Solar Decathlon competition, is to provide a future housing solution in the Champaign area that can house a family throughout its lifetime and uplift the neighborhood with its unique beauty. “

In order to minimize the utility cost of the house, it was designed to prthan it consumes, surpassing net-zero energy. There is a tankless on-demand water heater that conserves energy by heating the water just when it is needed instead of at all times, as traditional tanks do. The HVAC system was also designed to be adaptable with a mini-split system that is easier to expand into future additions than with some other systems. It also includes an energy recovery ventilator for healthy air. The photovoltaic solar panels on the roof were designed with the goal of making it a positive energy home, while highlighting the teams central theme of adaptability. It is sized to maximize on-site energy production while meeting the energy demands of the house. It also has an integrated storage capacity to provide the home’s energy needs during power outages. The appliances are all ENERGY STAR and WaterSense approved, for saving energy and lighting fixtures are all LEDs, to also save energy.

The design for this house was completely student-driven, and more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students have contributed to the project since its conception. According to Maxwell McWilliams, on the Structural Team, “ADAPTHAUS is a testament that a passionate team of students can contribute to a more sustainable future.“

After completing the project, the house will be donated to Habitat of Humanity, a non-profit organization that will match a couple to the house.

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