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Virginia Tech’s Prefab Lumenhaus Wins Solar Decathlon Europe

The prefab homes of the future won’t just be relatively cheap and easy to build on the fly–they’ll also be ultra-sustainable. For evidence of what these homes will look like, we need only direct our attention toward this year’s European Solar Decathlon, which asks teams to “clearly demonstrate that solar houses can be built without sacrificing energy efficiency or comfort, and that they can be both attractive and affordable.”

Lumenhaus

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The prefab homes of the future won’t just be relatively cheap and easy to build on the fly–they’ll also be ultra-sustainable. For evidence of what these homes will look like, we need only direct our attention toward this year’s European Solar Decathlon, which asks teams to “clearly demonstrate that solar houses can be built without sacrificing
energy efficiency or comfort, and that they can be both attractive and
affordable.”

This year’s winner of the 10-day competition was Virginia Tech’s Lumenhaus, an 800-square-foot solar-powered home inspired by architect Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. Virginia Tech’s zero-energy home comes with electronic systems monitored by an iPhone app along with LEDs, photovoltaic panels covering the roof, and multiple glass walls for maximum sun exposure. The modular design also features “plug-in stairs and entryways” that can be stacked up to create a two, three, or four-bedroom home.

The Lumenhaus team explains its design approach:

Where most energy-conscious houses are closed with
strategic openings to resist heat transfer, LUMENHAUS has open, flowing
spaces linking occupants to each other within the house and to nature
outside. The fully automated Eclipsis System, comprising independent sliding
layers, permits a revolutionary design in a solar-powered house, while
filtering light in beautiful, flowing patterns throughout the day.
LUMENHAUS epitomizes a “whole building design” construction approach,
in which all the home’s components and systems have been designed to
work together to maximize user comfort with environmental protection.

Lumenhaus

Lumenhaus was one of only two U.S. teams competing in the European decathlon–the University of Florida’s RE:FOCUS house came in 8th place. The Virginia Tech home beat the University of Applied Sciences in Germany’s Ikaros project by a single point.

Next year, we’ll be watching the U.S. Solar Decathlon for hints of what’s to come in the European version–Lumenhaus placed 13th out of 20 in last year’s competition before the Virginia Tech team updated the home for this year’s competition across the pond. Check out a video of Lumenhaus below.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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