Image Source: Screen capture from official LumenHaus website.

Last month, there was a Solar Decathlon in Europe.

It all started in 2007, when the US Government and the Government of Spain’s Ministry of Housing signed an agreement to organize a sustainable solar architecture competition in Europe. The US actually started having Solar Decathlon competitions in 2002. This year’s Europe competition included 19 top universities around the world and was held in Madrid, in June. The main purpose of the competition was to advance “the knowledge and dissemination of industrialized, solar, and sustainable housing”. There are also 4 objectives that apply to the Decathlon:
1. To raise participating students’ awareness of the benefits and opportunities the use of renewable energy and energy efficient construction offers.
2. To educate the general public about renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other available technologies that will reduce power consumption.
3. To encourage the use of solar technologies and quickly distribute them to the market.
4. To demonstrate that you can build a high performance solar home, without sacrificing energy efficiency or comfort.

The winner of Europe’s Solar Decathlon was Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University for their LumenHaus design. The house was inspired by Miles Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. LumenHaus offers a way “to expand both the physical and psychological appearance of space”. The floors can double in size, the north and south walls do an interesting disappearing act that will make it seem like there are no limits to the rooms, and a multi-layered wall-changing system offers numerous organizing and rearranging opportunities.

In addition to all of that, doors can be moved to close off different areas, the kitchen can be changed into a bar, and multiple units can be placed on top of each other and connected by stairs to add even more room. A geothermal pump is used to provide heat through the concrete floor and also provides hot water. On the roof, you’d find a photovoltaic system with the ability to shift its angle for optimum solar usage. However, the really interesting thing is everything—the electricity, entertainment devices, photovoltaic system, etc.—can all be controlled with an iPhone.

Next year, the decathlon will take place in the US again and the 2012 decathlon will head back to Madrid. To find out more about Europe’s Solar Decathlon, check out the official website here. It lists all contests, rules, house designs, teams, media, and more.

You can find out more about the winning team and design here.

By Heidi Marshall