These Solar Skins Preserve Architectural History–But Add A Modern Power Source

When old buildings become too inefficient to maintain, they’re often torn down and replaced with something new. But while futuristic design may suit modern tastes, the faceless constructions of glass and steel in older neighborhoods can also breed resentment. It’s a tense negotiation: Where do you strike a balance between sustainability and comfort?

Recognizing that generations of families may have invested emotional value in older designs, a group of 46 Dutch students from the Delft University of Technology have designed a solar panel “skin” to drape over the Netherlands’ famous post-war row homes. Their “prêt-à-loger” design, meaning “ready to live,” aims to preserve the homes while giving them a 21st-century source of power.

According to TU Delft, some 60% of Dutch citizens live in row houses, called Doorzonwoning, that were created during the post-World War II housing shortage. “We are not designing a house in the future, we are designing so that our homes will make it there,” the Prêt-à-Loger website explains. The students, preparing for the annual international Solar Decathlon Europe competition, built modular frames packed with solar panels to fit over existing homes.

This summer, TU Delft will be just one of 20 universities competing in a temporary “cité du soleil” in Versailles for the top prize. Check out their concept video and renderings above.SB