When it comes to green building, most pundits would agree that Europe is way out ahead of the US. (After all, the Germans pioneered Passivhaus building practices, and the Swiss Minergie standard makes LEED look pretty loose.) But green Americans everywhere now have a reason to cheer: in the first-ever Solar Decthalon Europe, a team of students and faculty from Virginia Tech have taken first place with their zero-energy Lumenhaus.
According to USA Today’s Green House, the 10-day competition in Madrid, Spain, challenged universities to create homes that produce at least as much energy as they use via solar technology and sustainable design. Student teams from seven different countries–including Germany, France, Spain, Great Britain and China–had just 10 days to assemble their prefabricated homes onsite; the homes were then showcased during an expo over June 18-27.
Virginia Tech’s winning entry is especially note-worthy because it is essentially the same house that that took 13th place in the U.S. Solar Decathlon last year. (This annual U.S. competition, sponsored by the Department of Energy, was the inspiration for this year’s European version.) Since then, the Virginia Tech team tweaked and improved the design, making use of all-glass north and south walls to maximize exposure to natural daylight as well as movable screens that allow for flexibility in different seasons, recyclable materials and LED lights throughout.