©Solar Decathlon Europe / Jason Flakes

The Solar House World Cup

Posted on 21 August 2014.

The Solar Decathlon challenge - ten days to build twenty houses using the sun as the sole source of energy - ended on July 14.

A rather different world cup concluded on July 14, 2014 in Versailles. Twenty international teams competed in the grounds of the chateau in Versailles. No stadium and no balls, just a vast construction site where twenty unconventional houses sprung up in just 10 days!

The reason for all the commotion in the Sun King’s gardens was the Solar Decathlon - a competition launched in 2002 in the United States and held for the first time in France. 800 young people from all around the world came to compete in this solar-powered house world cup. The young architecture and engineering students were given the opportunity to leave the drawing board and mock-ups for reality and inventing the homes of the future. They had a year to develop their projects, and 10 days to build them in Versailles.

As in the Olympic decathlon, there were 10 events relating to the 10 criteria set by the judges. Each solar house received a score based on cost, comfort and energy efficiency. The public were able to visit the finished results in the pop-up solar village between 28 June and 14 July.

Improving cities and anchoring them in the local environment

Far from being Utopian, the decathletes were asked to build a house that could be reproduced on an industrial scale. And the participants were often keen to anchor their solar-powered houses in the local environment of their home country.

The Italian team won top place with its RhOME for DenCity which aimed to turn a suburban neighborhood southeast of the Italian capital, Tor Fiscale, into an eco-neighborhood. To replace makeshift structures, the students designed a building with 12 apartments. Solar panels - on the roof, of course - were also used as sliding insulating panels that residents can adjust according to the weather.

The French Philéas project took second place and also focused on restoring a historic site. A disused industrial building in Nantes was transformed into collective housing. It included the addition of a solar canopy on the roof to create a heat source for the building and, taking a local food approach, grow fruit and vegetables.

Wanting to retain the typical old brick houses found in the Netherlands, the Dutch students came up with the idea of wrapping them in a structure made of polycarbonate and solar panels that acts as a heat shield. They carried off third prize in the Solar Decathlon.

There were lots of good ideas in the other projects that were in the running, all of which can be seen on the Solar Decathlon website. And don’t miss the next Solar Decathlon in 2016!