In the ten years since the Department of Energy sponsored the first Solar Decathlon in the United States, both sustainable design and solar energy have undergone substantial developments. As our awareness of energy and resource scarcity expands, so too does our response, and a host of new solutions are on display here in Spain. Check out some of the highlights from the event so far.
Team Rhône-Alpes from France won the Architecture award with their Canopea house, a modular home that is designed to become whole nanotowers. The rooftop solar system produces up to 12, 733 kWh per year, which is double what it requires. The surplus can be used to power their tiny electric vehicle or to feed back into the grid. The upper canopy is a leisure area that it is doused with soft natural lighting. Adjustable blinds allow the inhabitants to control how much air flow and light permeates the interior on any given day. Currently, this home is in the lead.
Germany’s ECOLAR house received first place in the Engineering competition. This modular house uses three different kinds of solar panels to deliver a whopping pile of renewable energy. These panels also have other functions, including aesthetic and passive design. All of the mechanics are stored in a super cabinet that can be moved to create enough space to make tuneups and the simple beam and column construction allows for a large variety of configurations. This house can be stacked, even, if the family grows.
Team DTU from Denmark won recognition for their unique integration of solar panels in this striking FOLD house. An open plan home that showcases the very best of Danish design, FOLD is constructed with strong Finnish Kerto wood and insulated with Rockwool Aerowolle. It generates 11,391 kWh energy annually and even boast a wall of LEGO!
Hungary has come a long way with their ODOO project. Their team explained that nobody back home really believed that they would make it to Madrid, but they did. And not only that, but they were one of only five teams that one five bonus points for completing construction on time! An interesting design that has vertical and rooftop photovoltaic panels, the home is organized around this central courtyard that has a kitchen and even a spot to take afternoon naps. The ODOO house also boasts a unique technique to mitigate thermal loss: insulated water tanks filled with collected rainwater that are then connected to floor and ceiling pipes with a heat exchanger.
The French/Italian Team Astonyshine has had a run of back luck with their project, but we would like to give them a major shout out for daring to think big. While so many teams chose a safe, conventional route bound to rack up the scores, this team went for a very bold design. Although the judges required them to keep the support beams as a safety measure, we love the use of stone and wood and iron in this swirling interior. Their rooftop solar system is also unique; instead of sticking to flat panels, they opted for tracking technology that delivers a staggering 15,000 kWh per year.
Although some of the houses have taken a giant lead, everyone has worked very hard for two years to represent their respective countries at this prestigious event. And the sportsmanship has been fantastic. Last night the students cooked dinner with and for a competing team. Young adults from China, Brasil, Portugal, Germany, Romania and elsewhere shared ideas and promoted international goodwill, although they didn’t always love the food that came their way! Winning’s nice but it’s temporary. Friendship and the exchange of world-changing ideas usually have a longer shelf life.
All images by Tafline Laylin for Green Prophet