House of the (Rising) SunBloc - the UK project for Solar Decathlon Europe
Green architecture in the UK is in its infancy. Although more advanced throughout Europe, the UK has yet to catch up. In order to raise awareness of the options available in relation to green architecture, renewable energy sources and the importance of energy efficiency – organisations and associations must collaborate across industry to provide and educate.
To confront these issues and develop solutions for this global issue, the Solar Decathlon Competition was created. Originally started in Washington 2009 by the US Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon is a competition between universities from all over the world.
Since that first competition, the event has grown into a huge environmental industry event with a European version of the Solar Decathlon, added to the bill in 2010. The European competition takes place in Madrid, with a huge number of large organisations taking part and sponsoring the competing teams to make their projects possible. In 2009, the main event attracted over 190,000 visitors during the ten-day period. Not only did it attract the attention of energy industry professionals, the media and academics, it also caught the eye of Government with visits from the Spanish Ministry of Housing, the ambassadors of competing countries and even the Prince of Spain.
Entrants are required to design and build a self-sufficient house, powered only by solar energy, and equipped with the latest technology that permits maximum energy efficiency. The houses are open to the general public, built on a plot known as the Solar Village, where they are judged on various environmental criteria. Participants are also required to organise a number of campaigns and events, in order to help raise awareness and educate the general public on sustainability and energy efficiency in our everyday lives.
Solar Decathlon Europe is organised by the Secretary of State for Housing and Urban Development at the Spanish Ministry of Public Works with the collaboration of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the support of the US Department of Energy. More information about the competition can be found on the Solar Decathlon Europe homepage.
The only UK entry
Out of all the universities that applied to enter Solar Decathlon Europe 2012, London Metropolitan University’s Team HelioMet is one of only 20 whose application has been successful and is the only UK entry. This means HelioMet has now proceeded to the main competition, and will be building its proposed house in Madrid, Spain, in 2012. Our student-led team from London Metropolitan University comprises from a range of disciplines in various departments such as the RIBA II postgraduate Diploma and MA Communications Management students, and is co-ordinated by the Faculty for Architecture and Spatial Design (ASD). So far, the design team has been working closely with consultants such as Adams Kara Taylor, Gardner & Theobald and BDSP Partnership.
As a varied group of individuals, our team approached the design using a wide range of influences, both traditional and modern. As part of our original research the team visited Cappadocia in Turkey to study whole villages that have been carved out of the soft rocky landscape, creating some incredibly fluid forms and making effective use of it surrounding environment. Taking this research on board and combining it with the architectural influences from the work of Gaudi and concepts such as Claude Parent’s ‘Function of the Oblique’, the HelioMet house, known as SunBloc, has been designed maximise the use of all its surfaces and integrate functions into the architecture.
Using the latest techniques in digital design and manufacturing, the HelioMet team has devised this energy efficient home to demonstrate the technology available in today’s market and to offer a new and stylish way of sustainable living. The beautifully curved design has been specifically configured to work with its surrounding environment to reduce its energy consumption radically. In this case, SunBloc has been fashioned to meet the needs of Madrid’s climate.
The dynamic shape of SunBloc creates a completely flexible living space, with all the service elements of the house (i.e. bathroom, kitchen, etc.) located in its core. This means that the house is not restricted to just one size or specific layout. It can be configured to the owner's comforts and practical requirements.
The skin of the house is dependent on its size and the external environmental requirements of its specific location. Photovoltaic panels are integrated into the skin to enable SunBloc to capture sunlight and power the house. These panels are orientated using precise solar data and parametric techniques, to optimise its energy generation.
A revolutionary louvre system sweeps round the house, widening as it goes, to expose SunBloc’s interior to natural light and heat in the winter, and protecting it from the harsh summer sun. To optimise the house’s efficiency, it has also been configured to the environment’s wind conditions and the location of the sun. This system provides temperate air and softly diffused light throughout the day.
In order succeed in one of the world’s largest Solar Industry events; we are currently in search of financial and material sponsors to support us. Supporting this competition and our entry in particular will be a great opportunity to raise the profile of your organisation, reinforce your commitment to corporate social responsibility and educate individuals on the uses of solar technology in our everyday lives.