RENU-House is a positive net energy home located in Rantoul, Illinois, designed by the Illinois Solar Decathlon 2021-2023 team. Every aspect of the design is guided by four overarching principles: to be Renewable, Economical, Nourishing, and Universal. The flexibility of the interior can adapt to meet the needs of a single parent or a multi-generational household, and the home can serve as a blueprint for communities to replace vacant lots or dilapidated housing with new, affordable, and renewable developments. Some highlights of the design are ADA accessibility, on-demand water heating, a low-maintenance ductless HVAC system, and a smart home hub inverter that automatically optimizes solar panel production and storage. At the completion of the Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Competition, Illinois Solar Decathlon has partnered with the Champaign chapter of Habitat for Humanity to donate the home to a local family in need.

RENU-House emphasizes accommodating the changing needs of a new generation, while also prioritizing accessibility. The floor plan uses a flex room to allow the owner to alternate between a 4-bedroom floor plan to a 3-bedroom circular floor plan. As national trends of multi-generational households or work-from-home increase, RENU-House can adapt while maintaining ADA compliance and low-maintenance features to allow accessibility for all. The design of our system is unique in that it employs a group of decentralized fans that operate a near-soundless HRV system. Unlike other conventional PV&E systems, we have a grid-tie battery backup solar system in case of a blackout that’s also capable of remotely controlling our loads through an app for optimal energy performance. The landscape design includes a rain garden that helps manage stormwater runoff, native planting that is beneficial for the soil and the local flora, and a garden bed that allows the occupants to grow their own plants and vegetables. We have a home-run system where each plumbing line comes from our tankless water heater which makes running the water around the house more efficient and less wasteful. Unlike most other smart home systems, our design is based on open-source principles that provide greater flexibility while being faster and more private. We aim to be unobtrusive while still providing all the benefits of a smart home. To encourage cognizant energy usage and a net zero impact on the environment, we have an app that visually expresses the energy generated and used by the house.

As of early March, the foundation, slab floor, framing, plumbing, electrical, and door and window installation have been completed by our contractor, Nelson Builders. In the upcoming two weeks, the mechanical, roofing, drywall, and insulation are also scheduled to be completed.

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