Let the Sun Shine: Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 Winners

Every other year, some of the best and brightest college and university students come together to built amazing solar-powered home designs. Designs are judged based on their efficiency, their comfort, and their architectural structure, among other factors. The 2010 Solar Decathlon took place in Madrid, Spain, marking the first time that the competition was held in Europe. One of the main focal points of the contest is to highlight the fact that eco-friendly dwellings can be exceptionally modern and attractive, contrary to many assumptions. The designs that came out of this year’s competition were some of the most forward-thinking and creative solar homes that the world has ever seen; these five were the judges’ top picks.

Lumenhaus

(image via: afagen)

Lumenhaus, the winning 2010 design from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University team, is a fantastically open home that emphasizes a “whole building” design. The shape and overall look of the home were influenced by the all-glass Farnsworth House designed by Mies van der Rohe. The two glass exterior walls of the Lumenhaus, along with its open floor plan, bathe the entire house in natural sunlight. A distinctive mixture of high-tech features and low-tech features are what make this design a winner: a solar roof, radiant in-floor heating, an energy-efficient central computer system, grey water recycling, and the use of passive energy. Moreover, the modular design is extremely portable and units can be added with very little effort, making the Lumenhaus the perfect expandable Earth-friendly home for the family of tomorrow.

Ikaros

A very close second place went to the team from the University of Applied Sciences, Rosenheim for their Ikaros design. The Ikaros house features a visually striking exterior design, but that’s far from being its only impressive side. The house produces four times more solar energy than it uses, meaning that future residents could sell their “extra” electricity to the power company and make some extra money every month. That distinctive exterior design serves to shade the home so that it will require less energy to cool in the summer months, and excess energy from the home’s systems is used to keep the home warm in the winter.

home+

The team from Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences walked away with third place for their home+ design. The glittering home is covered in lovely photovoltaic cells that lend a very distinctive look to the exterior while producing far more energy than the home’s residents would need. The idea behind the home was to produce a prototype that uses the least amount of traditional grid power possible but that was comfortable and pleasant to look at. The home+ design includes a wind tower (for passive cooling), phase changing-materials for moving heated or cooled air to where it’s most needed, and a modular design that lets users configure the four-part dwelling in whatever way works best for them.

Armadillo Box

Despite its funny name, the Armadillo Box from the Ecole National Superieure darchitecture de Grenoble team is serious about solar design. Like the desert-dwelling creature that shares its name, the Armadillo Box is great at conserving energy and withstanding brutal heat. The home features a nucleus that houses all of its technical equipment, keeping it safe while acting as the “heart” of the sustainable, flexible home meant for two people. Large windows help to provide natural sunlight, while overhangs reduce the amount of heat that seeps in through those windows. And of course, a massive photovoltaic array is prominently featured on the exterior of the house.

Luukku

Team Finland rounded out the top five with its simply beautiful Luukku design. The team drew inspiration from traditional Finnish summer houses which use slightly elevated foundations and natural materials to make beautiful and functional buildings. The overall feel of this design is one of simplicity: sustainable wood, water heated by solar collectors, high-efficiency insulation and windows, and – naturally – a large and effective photovoltaic system. What’s best about the Finnish design is that it’s meant for cold climates that don’t get much sun – so even in Finland the home can produce at least as much power as it needs for the family living inside.

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