With the terrifying, tractor-trailer tossing tornados that recently hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area still fresh in everyone’s minds, I thought I’d take a gander at the Sunshower SSIP House, a natural disaster-resilient prototype home recently completed and opened for tours in New Orleans, a city that’s no stranger to weather-related calamities.

I first started hearing about the Sunshower SSIP House back in 2010 when the design, conceived by Tulane School of Architecture professors Tiffany Lin and Judith Kinnard, took first place in the New Orleans Sustainable Design Competition sponsored by New York-based SSIP (steel structural insulated panel) supplier Oceansafe in collaboration with the RenGen Group.

Beating out seven other NOLA-based entrants, Lin and Kinnard’s Sunshower SSIP House was designed to withstand whatever nastiness Mother Nature just happens to throw at it: hurricane-force winds, 8.0-magnitude earthquakes, floods, wildfires, tornados, you name it. The home is also termite-proof and mold- and mildew-resistant. And as detailed by competition guidelines, the prefabricated Sunshower SSIP House is composed of $100,000 worth of building materials (powerful Oceansafe SSIPs are used for the exterior walls and roof) that can easily fit into a shipping container and be deployed to disaster-stricken areas for quick assemblage, making it not only a safe place to ride out a storm in but a suitable place to live during the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Late last month, Lin and Kinnard’s vision was at long last (the Deepwater Horizon oil spill delayed construction of the home, as pointed out by Builder Online) realized at 222 Harrison Ave. in the Lakewood section of New Orleans, an area particularly devastated by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. Oceansafe, RenGen Group (together, the two joined to form REOSE Sustainable Building Systems), C&G Construction, and Woodward Design & Build carried out the construction of the home. A slew of vendors, most New Orleans-based, also contributed to the FEMA-registered project.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom model home with its rubberneck-inducing Swiss cheese-y covered porch, is not only structurally impervious to extreme weather events but is suited for off-the-grid living thanks to a 5kW photovoltaic array and a 1,000-gallon rainwater collection and filtration system. The latter is made possible by the home’s gently sloping primary roof that funnels rainwater into the home’s front courtyard where it enters a catchment basin and then to an underground cistern. The photovoltaics and solar hot water systems are located atop a higher, steeply pitched secondary roof located at the front of the home above the aforementioned porch/courtyard area.

Other notable green specs of the 1,100-square-foot home, aside from the dual "sun" and "shower" roofs, include modular planting beds and a layout that embraces natural ventilation and daylighting. And as you may have noticed in the photos, there's even an outdoor shower out front on the porch — "just to get the water point across" says Kinnard in a Tulane University news article. Personally, I can't imagine a better way to greet your neighbors than stepping outside in the morning for a zesty al fresco shower sesh.

Remarked Vincent Basilice, CEO of Oceansafe in a press release announcing the grand unveiling of the home:

The Sunshower SSIP model home is a remarkable example of cooperation and advances that have been made in green building. The companies that participated in this project are to be commended for their commitment to sustainability. The ‘Sunshower’ is an attractive home; its design is smart and functional in terms of energy efficiency and ability to weather the toughest storms and adverse environmental conditions. Now that the model has been completed, we can truly appreciate the winning design that was submitted in the 2010 REOSE Sustainable Design Competition. We can all take pride in the strides made in sustainable building that this structure represents.

As of now, the Sunshower SSIP House will remain a model home, open to tours for the media, the green building community, government officials, and others. Tours to the general public are also available by appointment. Lots more info over at the Sunshower SSIP House website. There's also the project's Flickr stream where you can take a virtual tour of the completed home and see what it looked like under construction.

Anyone in the New Orleans area been able to check out the home since it opened its doors in March?

Via [Builder Online]

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