LUMENHAUS: the responsive architecture, zero energy house


July 12, 2010

Materials and components used in the LUMENHAUS are based on the basic requirements of environmental conservation and energy use, as well as the longevity of each product.

Materials and components used in the LUMENHAUS are based on the basic requirements of environmental conservation and energy use, as well as the longevity of each product.

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Imagine waking up on a cold winter’s morning to light streaming in through your bedroom window and the smell of fresh coffee. The concrete floor is warm and your favorite music starts to play as you eat your breakfast. As you drive away the house automatically locks, the thermostat reduces and the insulation panels close as the house goes into hibernation until you return. Welcome to LUMENHAUS, the completely solar powered, open plan house that uses computer technology, flexible architectural design and energy efficiency to adapt to its owner’s changing needs as well as environmental conditions.

Designed by students of Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University for the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe – which it won – LUMENHAUS was inspired by the iconic glass pavilion-style Farnsworth House from Bauhaus architect Mies Van Der Rohe.

The name LUMENHAUS comes from "lumen", meaning "the power of light", and "haus", a reference both to the Bauhaus design movement in which the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies has roots, and the German word for house or home.

LUMENHAUS uses responsive architecture: all of the systems have been designed to work together to balance occupants' comfort and energy efficiency.

The house maximizes occupants’ exposure to bright light during the day through its open, flowing spaces and at night radiates it back via a low-energy LED lighting system in the insulating panels.

The color temperature of the white lights can be controlled to optimize mood and wellbeing. For example, a warmer temperature could be used to promote relaxation and a cooler temperature to increase concentration.

Solar (or photovoltaic or PV) panels cover the roof and the house uses passive energy systems, radiant heating and building materials from renewable and/or recyclable sources. The prefabricated construction process reduces waste and increases efficiency.

A meter records the usage of energy throughout the day. If the house produces more energy through the photovoltaic panels than it uses, the net energy gain provides an opportunity to sell energy back to the power company or to power an electric car.

The fully automated Eclipsys System is an advanced building facade comprising two layers: a metal shutter shade and a translucent insulating panel. The shutter shade slides along the north and south facades, providing protection from direct sunlight while allowing for indirect, natural light, views to the exterior and privacy.

The sliding insulating panel is a translucent polycarbonate panel filled with aerogel, a super lightweight, highly insulating translucent material that provides insulation equivalent to a typical solid wall during harsh weather conditions without blocking natural light.

When the Eclipsis System is open, floorspace doubles and the interior and exterior of the house meld seamlessly, connecting the house to the natural environment outside.

The panels automatically adjust to best capture the sun’s energy in all seasons and all weathers. In the cold months, the Eclipsis System will open up to allow sunlight to passively heat the concrete slab floor, decreasing the amount of energy needed to heat the house.

Computer automated controls, which can be activated via iPhone or iPad, allow the house to automatically adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Visit the LUMENHAUS website for information on materials used, appliances and fixtures, and the geothermal heating and cooling system.


Wonderful design of ZERO ENERGY HOUSE.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh

This house looks like a very stylish way to get off the grid. Does anyone have any projections on the cost per sq. ft.?

Lawrence Weisdorn

Love it - good work boys. We\'ll need a bigger platform and a second story (and basement) as well as garage to make the concept saleable. Presume you can add on modules as desired?

I\'d like to see a central living area with sleeping wing at one end and cooking/family room wing at the other. Utilizing the earth-heat-sink concept as an under-basement resource, the basement could contain mechanical/electrical services as well as traditional storage and, in cases where the lots is on a grade, a garage under and parking entry.


In the last few decades Americans somehow became convinced that they NEED to live in palatial splendor. If the price can be kept reasonable this would let the common man live in a comfortable, seemingly roomy house with a small footprint and energy efficient to boot.


Yipes, I have to buy and Iphone?

Mark A

This is an amazing development for Real Estate. I can see this being highly marketable in urban areas such as New York or California where the acreage one buys is significantly smaller. The next step besides marketing a new development is coming up with some cutting edge way of implementing this technology into older constructed houses. Since there are so many developed housing or units pre existing. That's what I would like to see. I would definitely be interested in cost for the LUMENHAUS.

Samar Perry

Sorry but architects can, at times, be just about as laughable as "art experts". Somewhere in time we gave them complete freedom to pursue even the wackiest ideas, so long as they built the products of their imaginations for themselves and not for the unsuspecting public.

Any sealed dwelling which does not have a high efficiency air exchange system (dome home, passive home, concrete bunker) will sweat and sweat heavily, particularly in the winter. Then the inhabitants might as well place an order for mold, mildew, spores and associated chronic respiratory illness - not to mention bath towels that NEVER dry out.

Its going to be like the reptile house at the zoo....but cost not a penny in utilities....

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