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Solar Decathlon Team Builds Home For D.C. Mom

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Empowerhouse, built by students at Parson's The New School For Design, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School, and Stevens Institute of Technology, is headed to Deanwood after the solar decathlon.
Jessica Gould
Empowerhouse, built by students at Parson's The New School For Design, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School, and Stevens Institute of Technology, is headed to Deanwood after the solar decathlon.

Collegiate teams from across the country are competing in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon on the National Mall. This year's contest has special meaning for one D.C. resident.

"I think it will help the community to know that it's better for our planet to have energy efficient appliances and have a whole solar home," says Lakiya Culley, a single mother of three.

She says owning her first home feels like a big step toward independence, and not just the personal kind.

Students from The New School in New York and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey built the energy-independent house. Now, Habitat for Humanity is working with the city to help Culley buy it.

"It's unbelievable. Kind of like a dream," she says.

With its thick insulation and a roof studded with solar panels, the house uses 90 percent less energy than a typical home. New School student Carly Berger is giving tours of the house, which now sits along with its competition in West Potomac Park.

"I really feel like we're doing something quite incredible providing a real home for a family and keeping it in D.C.," Berger says.

Richard King, director of the Decathlon, says houses will be judged for their efficiency, design and affordability. But he says the contest's real goal is to bring new innovations to the attention of design professionals and educate the general public.

The Decathlon is located in West Potomac Park and is open to the public through Oct. 2.

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