Empowerhouse designs new energy-efficient home for D.C. resident

Lakiya Culley and her entire neighborhood celebrated her brand new home in Deanwood Tuesday. The single mother of three young boys took the tour of the three-bedroom, two-bath house designed and built by students from Parsons The New School and Stevens Institute of Technology. Both schools are in New York and are partnering with the D.C. Habitat for Humanity.

“When I made it through the process and I was just like really? I couldn’t believe it. It was like, is this really my house? Is this really going to be my house?” she says.

Her home was entered in last year’s International Solar Decathlon on the Mall called Empowerhouse. It was just one floor and won the Affordability Award, but this entry didn’t leave town. Instead, it moved to Northeast and was built into a two-story duplex. The adjoining unit is almost finished as well.

Empowerhouse is called the start of a new wave of affordable, energy-efficient homes.

“This is amazing. We have a duplex here that I think really should be a model of all housing across the nation,” says Sheila Johnson, chairperson of the Parsons board.

Built for $250,000, the house recycles rain and tap water, has super thick walls and uses solar panels to heat.

“Because this house is net zero, the utility bills will be zero for the homeowner over the course of a year,” says Heather Zanoni, a student at The New School.

Tuesday is sort of a housewarming party, even though Culley won’t actually move in until next month. But this is a home she actually helped to build herself.

Habitat requires homeowners to help build their new homes.

“I learned how to frame, that was one thing,” she says. “I helped build stairs. I did a lot of exciting stuff, stuff that I’d never done before.”