Case Study on Northwestern University’s Solar Decathlon Home: Designed for Sustainability, Comfort for Aging Boomers

By Beko US

Situated on Northwestern University’s beautiful Evanston campus is a 992-square-foot home designed for aging in place in Chicago’s harsh climate, yet so energy efficient that it can operate entirely off the grid.


In its first-ever entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, university students on the project have created Enable, House by Northwestern, which delivers an ENergized (energy-efficient house for people with an active lifestyle) and AdaptABLE (the house meets the changing needs of its residents) experience for its target users. Providing energy-efficient appliances for the home is Chicago-area-based Beko US, Inc. (www.bekoappliances.com).


Project faculty director Dick Co, research professor of chemistry at Northwestern University, said, “Our team was most impressed that Beko was named 2017 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year by the Environmental Protection Agency. In order to meet the stringent energy demands of the Solar Decathlon, all of the appliances must meet ENERGY STAR® requirements, and we were pleased that Beko produces some of the most energy-efficient appliances available in the U.S. market.”


The Solar Decathlon challenges the 12 participating university teams to design and build full-sized solar-powered houses, which are then disassembled, shipped to Denver, Colo., and reassembled for judging and exhibition to the public on Oct. 5-9, and 12-15, 2017.


Beko Sponsors Northwestern’s Solar Decathlon Home/Add One


The winner is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency.

Northwestern will receive prize money of $100,000 for its participation, and the overall winner will receive $300,000. 


“With the aid of technology and design innovation, we hope to change the narrative about sustainability,” Co said. “Our goal is to create an energy-efficient home for today and tomorrow, without compromising the Baby Boomer’s desire for a beautiful, comfortable home.” 


User-Centered Design Process

During the design phase from April to December 2016, the Northwestern Solar Decathlon team spent hundreds of hours conducting interviews and making home visits to individuals representing the target market.


Co said, “Throughout the project, we relied on user testing and feedback to ensure the house meets the Baby Boomer’s unique needs and desires for a safe, functional, convenient, comfortable and enjoyable home.” 


Key features of Enable’s two-bedroom, two-bathroom home include:


  • Modern construction and manufacturing practices that support cost-effectiveness and buildability of the house design, such as pre-fabricated and pre-engineered panels and millwork to eliminate construction waste
  • Use of software program to review layouts in real time and hyper-customize home
  • Energy-efficient kitchen and laundry appliances from Beko US, Inc.  
  • Home automation technologies
  • Energy/design features to create cleaner, healthier indoor living environment, including photocatalytic titanium dioxide coatings on exterior walls and sunroom windows that use sunlight to remove air pollutants and keep surfaces clean longer


Beko Sponsors Northwestern Solar Decathlon Home/Add Two


  • Rooftop solar panels integrated into the main roof, which is slanted at 24 degrees for ideal solar collection in Chicago
  • A residential battery system that stores excess solar energy and is tied to the grid; the home determines the ideal time to store solar power, sell it to the grid, or purchase power from the grid.  
  • ADA accessibility throughout house
  • Open kitchen/living space; master suite in the east wing; and a 2nd bedroom that converts to office space
  • North and south-facing decks and detached garage to expand living space to almost 2,500 square feet
  • Operable south solarium which opens up to maximize the home’s living space and invite the outdoors inside 
  • Highly functional furniture, much of it integrated into the home itself, that allows spaces to be reconfigured as needs and circumstances change
  • Willow glass surfaces that look and feel like stone, but are more durable, won’t stain, and have a smaller carbon footprint than natural stone.


After the competition, Co says the home will return to Evanston as a museum exhibit for educational outreach and workforce training for two years. Enable will eventually be sold to a private buyer. Currently only 1% of the U.S. housing stock meets the needs of people wishing to age in place, according to Co. 


Support from Corporate Partners

Approximately 50 engineering, architecture and communications students drove the design and build process, with support and mentorship from industry partners such as Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (www.smithgill.com), GAF (www.gaf.com), Marvin Design Gallery by Evanston Lumber

(www.marvinbyevanstonlumber.com), FedEx Freight (www.FedEx.com), Power Construction (www.powerconstruction.net), Thornton Tomasetti (www.thorntontomasetti.com), Kelso-Burnett Co. (www.kelso-burnett.com), and The Hill Group (www.hillgrp.com), among others. The team used in-kind donations of professional services and products, as well as cash donations from companies, individuals, and foundations related to environmental causes and the real estate industry.


Beko Sponsors Northwestern Solar Decathlon Home/Add Three


After Solar Decathlon sponsor Beko expressed interest in providing appliances for the Northwestern home, students spent an afternoon at the company’s US headquarters in Bolingbrook, Ill., to learn more about the energy efficiency and aesthetic features of Beko appliances.


The Northwestern team chose the following Beko appliances:

  • Refrigerator (BFFD3622SS): The 36” counter-depth, side-by-side refrigerator features Everfresh+ and Active Fresh Blue Light technologies that safeguard food and ensure maximum freshness; filtered ice and water dispenser (through the door); stainless steel
  • Range (PRIR34450SS) – 30” pro-style induction range with four burners, including one with XL zone; XL 5.7 cubic-feet, self-cleaning SURF convection oven; knob illumination; fingerprint-free stainless steel
  • Over the Range Microwave (MWOTR30100SS) – 1.6 cubic feet interior capacity; fingerprint-free stainless steel
  • Dishwasher (DDN25400X) – 24” fully integrated dishwasher with 48dBA Silent Operation; Aquaflex dual water pressure cycle; 5-level wash system; flexible baskets; fingerprint-free stainless steel
  • Stackable Compact Washer (WMY10148CO) and Dryer (model HPD24412W) – large capacity with 2.5 cu. ft. washing capacity and 4.1 cu. ft. drying capacity; 24” front-loading washer with 1,400 RPM maximum spin speed and 16 washing programs; 24” ventless heat pump dryer with 16 drying programs; chrome door rim; white


Beko’s innovative heat pump dryer made the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2017 ENERGY STAR Most Efficient list for using 50 percent less energy than conventional dryers. Beko was among the first to bring the ventless heat pump technology to the marketplace. The heat pump dryer uses a closed-loop heat exchange system to dry at lower temperatures, saving money on energy bills and providing superior protection for clothes.


In addition, several Beko dishwashers made this year’s ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient list, and all models have earned ENERGY STAR marks for using advanced


Beko Sponsors Northwestern Solar Decathlon Home/Add Four


technology to clean dishes brilliantly with less water and energy. Unique design features include multiple insulation layers to reduce thermal loss, and a variable speed circulation motor that automatically adjusts for optimum water and energy consumption.


Beko’s ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators also save energy and money and conserve the planet. They are built with 99.9 percent lead-free materials, are 100 percent free from ozone-depleting greenhouse gases, and are manufactured with 85 percent recyclable components.


In fact, the company has achieved the ENERGY STAR certification for over 90% of the major appliances in its Beko brand. According to the EPA, appliances with the ENERGY STAR label can help a consumer save $630 over a product’s lifetime.


With its sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017, Beko, the #1 European freestanding appliance brand just introduced into the North American market, is going the distance to help accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient products and design in American homes.


“Everything we do as a brand is centered around sustainability and innovation,” said Hasan Yardimci, president, Beko US, Inc. “Our support of the Solar Decathlon is in keeping with our commitment to provide consumers with products that are both good for the globe and support their everyday needs.”


Beko US, Inc. was founded in June 2016 and recently opened a distribution center in Bolingbrook, Ill.


About Beko US, Inc.

Beko US, Inc. is a subsidiary of Arçelik A.S., whose vision is “Respects the globe, Respected globally.” The company is committed to developing highly energy efficient electrical appliances that deliver exceptional value, superior quality, and high levels of customer satisfaction by listening and responding to the needs of consumers. With a growing presence in 140 countries worldwide, Beko is the fastest growing major appliance brand in Europe and the top-selling brand in the United Kingdom. In June 2016, Beko secured a place in the U.S. market, with retailer commitments and a sister brand, Blomberg, that has been a top choice in premium developments across North America since 2008. In 2017, Beko US, Inc. received the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award for its outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency. Beko is also the 2017 TWICE VIP Award winner in the high-efficiency washer category. For more information, visit www.bekoappliances.com or www.blombergappliances.com.


About Enable, House by Northwestern

Enable, House by Northwestern is Northwestern University’s first entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Designed for active Baby Boomers living in Chicago’s North Shore who are looking to downsize and build their home for life, Enable delivers an ENergized (energy-efficient house for people with an active lifestyle) and AdaptABLE (the house meets the changing needs of its residents) experience for its target users. Our vision is to promote sustainable living without compromise. Enable is more than a house. It’s a home for today, and tomorrow. For more information, visit www.northwestern.house or facebook.com/housebynorthwestern


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