LUMENHAUS: energy efficiency, innovation and sustainable housing


Solar Decathlon is ‘a competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy in which universities from across the globe meet to design and build an energetically self-sufficient house that runs only on solar energy, is connected to a power grid, and incorporates technologies that maximize its energy efficiency.’

The 2010 competition was held in Madrid, with teams from Spain, Germany, Finland, the UK, France, China and the US taking part. Over the ten days of the competition the 17 houses produced three times more energy than they consumed (6,177 kWh against 2,579 kWh).

The judging criteria were:

• Architecture
• Construction and Engineering
• Solar Systems and Hot Water
• Energy Balance
• Comfort Conditions
• Usage
• Communications and Social Media
• Industrialization and Market Viability
• Innovation
• Sustainability

Solar Decathlon 2010

Solar Decathlon 2010

Night light display

Night light display

Rotating facades and roof

Rotating facades and roof

Comfort and usage

Comfort and usage

Vegetated wall

Vegetated wall

The winner was VirginiaTech’s LUMENHAUS.

Inspired by the glass pavilion-style Farnsworth House designed by Bauhaus architect Mies Van Der Rohe, the house features a flowing, open plan that connects occupants to each other within the house and to nature outside.

LUMENHAUS emphasizes integrity and endurance. Choices of materials and components are based on the basic requirements of environmental conservation and energy use, as well as the longevity of each product. General concepts for sustainable architecture – compact volume, little air infiltration, strategic insulation, natural/cross ventilation, passive heating, and integrated geothermal energy sink – are articulated with appropriate technologies.

1. Photovoltaic array and electric actuator
LUMENHAUS is completely powered by the sun. A powerful array of photovoltaic (PV) panels provides carbon-neutral energy to the house. The PVs, arranged in a single array that covers the roof, are built into the house during construction. The panels are bifacial, meaning they use both sides to increase energy output by up to 15 percent. Using an electric actuator, the entire PV array can be tilted to the optimal angle for each season (from zero degrees to a 17-degree angle in summer and to a 35-degree angle in winter).

2. Interior lighting
The energy collected during the day will be symbolically radiated back out at night through a low-energy, long-lasting LED lighting system. LED lights are extremely energy-efficient light fixtures that emit a very high-quality white light. They produce more lumens per watt than traditional incandescent bulbs. They also have extremely long lives and are very durable, being resistant to heat, cold and shock.

3. Rainwater collection and greywater recyling
LUMENHAUS is not only energy-efficient; it is water-efficient, too. The roof is sloped to collect rainwater that is filtered for potable (drinkable) use in the house, while water used in the house (greywater – from the shower, bathroom sink and clothes washer) goes through a series of bio-filters in the surrounding landscape where it is cleaned for non-potable use.

4. Passive energy systems
LUMENHAUS optimizes the use of passive energy through day lighting, natural ventilation and natural passive heating and cooling.

Day lighting is the natural lighting of the house through means of windows and other openings. In this case, the entire south and north facades are either translucent (when the insulation panels are closed) or transparent (when the insulation panels are open).

Natural ventilation is the ventilation/cooling of the house through means other than mechanical/electrical-powered systems. The house can be naturally cooled and ventilated by opening any of the sliding doors on the north and side facade of the house. These doors include bug screens to keep bugs out of the house and to let in fresh, clean air.

Natural heating of the house comes through the ability to capture the sun’s heat in the polished dark-gray concrete floor. When the sun hits the concrete slab in the day, it absorbs and stores heat, which it radiates to naturally heat the house throughout the night.

5. Modular design
The modular design of LUMENHAUS allows it to grow with your family. Multiple units can connect or stack with plug-in stairs and entryways to create two-, three-, and four-bedroom houses with the same efficient use of space of the single module. If used as a part of a community, the houses have the potential to become even more sustainable than the single house. For example, if a single person were to originally move into a single module, but then later got married, he or she could add another module to expand the space with little difficulty.

[All LUMENHAUS information from the technologies section on their website]

LUMENHAUS at the Solar Decathlon

LUMENHAUS at the Solar Decathlon


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