Solar Decathlon Europe 2012
Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 is now in full swing in Madrid, Spain. Solar Decathlon Europe is an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon held every second year in Washington, D.C. Interest in the U.S. competition had grown to the point that a European version was started in 2010. The U.S. competition invites international entrants but the cost of travel and shipping a house overseas was prohibitive for many potential teams. A European version allows participation by many more teams.
In the Solar Decathlons, university teams compete in the design, construction and operation of small energy-efficient houses powered by the sun’s energy. The Solar Decathlon Europe’s teams are judged in these ten contests: architecture, engineering and construction, energy efficiency, electrical energy balance, comfort, function, communication / raising social awareness, industrialization / market viability, innovation, and sustainability.
We will be having a look at several of this year’s Solar Decathlon Europe entries. First up is the Odoo House by team Odooproject from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary.
The Odoo House
The Odooproject team observed that people spend most of their time indoors. As a result they use substantial energy to heat, cool and light their homes. The team had the insight that considerable energy would be saved if people could be encouraged to spend more time outdoors. As such, they designed Odoo House to facilitate outdoor living. They wanted to make it just as convenient for the occupants to spend time outdoors as they do inside.
The house consists of the enclosed living space and an equal-sized terrace. The terrace is bounded on one side by the house and on the opposite side by a storage wall, forming a semi-private courtyard. Team Odooproject refers to the storage wall as a “summer wall” because it keeps all the necessities of outdoor living close at hand.
Slide open one panel and there is a summer kitchen complete with sink and cooktop. There is no need to pull a barbecue out of storage and fiddle with a propane tank because the summer kitchen is ready for use. In hot weather you can easily cook outdoors, rather than heating up the house and then having to run the air conditioner to make it comfortable again. Another compartment has a built-in couch and additional furniture can be stored in the summer wall. The lack of any step at the glass doors leading inside also makes it easy to move furniture between inside and out. With furniture on castors, there would be no reason you couldn’t sit outside enjoying the evening breeze from the comfort of your favorite chair.
The interior portion of the house is a trapezoid in shape, narrowest at the bedroom end and widening in the living area where more space is needed. The bedroom is separated from the living area by a divider with cabinets at the bottom and open shelves at the top. It could be wider but it does demonstrate how you could keep the bed out of sight while still allowing views through the house.
This being a Solar Decathlon, the Odoo House does have its share of technical wizardry. The house roof and the facade of the summer wall are covered with enough photovoltaic panels to generate twice as much electricity as the house needs in a year. The south-facing windows capture the sun’s heat in the cooler months. Excess heat is collected by water lines in the floor and ceiling, and stored in an insulated tank for use at night. For hot weather there is a system for sprinkling water on the roof to help cool it.
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