2014 European Solar Decathlon: Five projects to watch


July 8, 2014

Gizmag takes a look at five highlights from the 2014 European Solar Decathlon competition

Gizmag takes a look at five highlights from the 2014 European Solar Decathlon competition

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The 2014 European Solar Decathlon recently kicked-off in Paris, and a total of 20 sustainable houses and 800 competitors hailing from 16 countries have arrived in the City of Light's Château de Versailles estate. Running until July 14, the competition offers a different take on the future of sustainable living compared to last year's US Solar Decathlon, and features a greater overall focus on inner-city living.

Like its US counterpart, the remit of the European Solar Decathlon is to promote, educate, and further the development of sustainable architecture and the use of solar power. While it's unlikely that many of the prototype designs featured in the competition will actually end up being built and inhabited full-time, it's nonetheless an unmissable melting pot of green architecture.

Gizmag has a closer look at five projects that have caught our eye.

Rooftop Project

The Rooftop Project is designed by students from Berlin's University of the Arts and Institute of Technology. It envisions employing Berlin's abandoned and unused rooftop spaces as prime locations for small, energy-efficient residences suitable for young single people.

The prototype dwelling features glass-based north and south facades which allow ample natural light to permeate the interior, while the roof is topped with thin CIGS (Copper indium gallium) solar panels that feed a battery array to keep electricity always available. The solar panel-clad roof can also be adjusted to cover the glass facade in order to offer additional thermal protection on winter days.

Team Rooftop

Adaptive House

Natural disasters, in particular severe flooding, are a serious concern in Bang Khun Thian, Bangkok. Students from King Meghuts University of Technology, Thailand, have therefore designed a home that's well suited to handling such events.

Inspired by traditional Thai architecture, the ground floor of the prototype house is raised 60 cm (2 ft) off the ground. The interior of the house is separated by shipping container-based living spaces. Bamboo planks, sandwich foamed polyurethane, and fiber cement panels are used for insulation. Adaptive House also features a rooftop-based solar array, which is hooked up to an array of four large batteries.



Taking the view that an individual house per family is wasteful, students from Switzerland's Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts' School of Engineering and Architecture offer food for thought with a concept for sustainable communal living.

The Your+ project calls for residence cooperatives to be used to reduce the amount of living space per family. Envisioned as a block of apartments, the interior of the prototype is organized into four spaces: a private room, a bedroom and en-suite bathroom, a semi-common kitchen and lounge, and a mixed-use community room. The prototype housing also sports a roof-based photovoltaic array which is again linked to batteries.

Team Lucerne

Rhome for denCity

Students from Rome's Universita Delgi Studi Di Roma Tre have designed a 60 sq m (645 sq ft) apartment that represents the top floor of a four-story housing complex slated for the Eternal City's Tor Fiscale district.

The apartment features a photovoltaic system that covers the entire roof and one section of building's facade, and can automatically adjust up to 15 degrees in order to catch the most available rays. To help keep its occupants cool, the Rhome apartment features ample natural ventilation in the form of carefully placed windows which facilitate cross-ventilation. Two loggia (or galleries) open to the outside and leave room for future expansion if required.

Team Rhome

Maison Reciprocity

Maison Reciprocity is the result of a transatlantic partnership between students from US-based Appalachian State University and France's Université d’Angers. The students aim to create a blueprint for a future of sustainable townhouses with a prefabricated two-story modular residence.

Maison Reciprocity features excellent thermal insulation, energy-efficient appliances, and an intelligent brise-soleil (sun shading system) on the facade which sports solar panels, operable louvres to block out the sun, and a rainwater collection system. Of the projects we've covered, this perhaps feels the most ready for every day use, and it's easy to imagine it appearing in a city sometime soon.

Team Réciprocité

And the winner is ...

That rounds up Gizmag's highlights from the 2014 Solar Decathlon – and the big question is: who's going to win? We'll take a wild guess at Maison Reciprocity getting the nod thanks to the professionalism of the team's presentation and its very practical design.

Head to the source link below for more information on the other 15 entries, and keep an eye out for Gizmag's further coverage of the competition, including the overall winner, in the coming days.

Source: Solar Decathlon Europe

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

The word ' sustainable' is often used in this story but I have yet to be provided with a suitable definition.  I know of  no perpetual motion machine in existence, something that will sustain itself  once it is put in motion.  Users of this word like to tout Solar and Wind generated energy but often the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. No solar power is generated at night.       We know people  who live in remote areas of Thunder Mountain in Colorado. They  are off grid because no services reach out that far.  Most have large solar arrays and wind chargers which power a stack of deep cell batteries. Homes  are equipped with 12 volt lighting and appliances. Water is collected from rooftops into a cistern. A back-up generator to supply power is needed because often for several days the sky is heavenly overcast and the winds are calm. The generator is propane powered, gas is delivered by tank wagon. Often a trip to town towing a tank mounted to a trailer is necessary for water.       So, unless people live in very primitive conditions in tropical areas  or in a cave by a stream,  I believe these 'buzz words' are just that and mean nothing other than allowing people who use them to feel warm and fuzzy. 


Just guessing but from context over the years I have deduced "sustainable" means no fossil fuels. This implies that fossil fuels will soon run out, I guess, but certainly not in my lifetime. If, for the sake of argument, I concede temporarily, that eventually oil/gas will run out, I have no problem with using as much as I need. I am living my life. I will not sacrifice it for future generations that may never exist. There are many ways our species may become extinct, chief among them nuclear war. No one can predict or guarantee human survival tomorrow, let alone future generations. One thing is certain: This planet is a death trap. Eventually, every living thing on it will become extinct. Species survival requires space exploration/colonization. But mankind is too busy killing, taxing, and regulating (pushing around, ruling) each other.

I would not stop anyone from sacrificing themselves. That is their right. It has been the moral "gold standard" since biblical times. I won't let them drag me down with them, as they feel morally obligated to do. I live and let live, they don't. Since my ethical code represents less than 1%, I am often forced to be "politically, socially, correct". I hate that.

Don Duncan
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