The competition was fierce, but the final results have been announced: Canopea, by the Rhône Alpes team from France has won the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe. The results don’t come as a huge surprise, as the French university team has been leading in the overall scoring for much of the previous week — it took both the Architecture and Operations prizes — but in the end, Canopea beat out the Team Andalucia’s Patio 2.12 by less then four points.

Canopea makes use of a 10.7 kilowatt-capacity solar power array that, as per the terms of the competition, produces enough energy to bring the home to net zero status. However, like a lot of the homes we’ve seen at the Villa Solar in Madrid this year, this array was designed to actually produce an excess of electricity — in this case, to charge up the family’s small electric vehicle. Modular in design, Canopea is composed of ‘nano towers’ that can easily be stacked on top of one another to create sustainable high density housing. Regardless of how many units reside below, the top floor of the Canopea design contains a common laundry, a summer kitchen, a garden, and common space for the building’s inhabitants to relax and socialize.

image via Solar Decathlon Europe

Created in part to meet the need for sustainable urban housing in the alpine corridors of the Alps, these tall stackable units fit easily along narrow, winding streets. But the team sees its nanotower concept just as easily scaling out horizontally where conditions allow. (And perhaps even a whole block of towers stacked both up and out?)

A well-balanced entry, the two-story Canopea house Team Rhône-Alpes constructed for the competition this year in Madrid racked up an impressive 120 points for architecture, 116.85 points for functionality and 86.70 points for sustainability. But innovation, clearly, played a big part here too, with the judges citing the nanotower concept as one of the most compelling aspects of the design. No matter how many Canopea units are stacked on top of one another, each retains 360 degree views that can opened up or shaded at will, via louvers that are covered in solar panels. And whether it’s constructed as one unit or many, Canopea harvests rain as well as sun, and makes use of natural ventilation.

Canopea interior
image via Solar Decathlon Europe

Just four points behind in the judging was the Patio 2.12 house by Team Andalucia, which took the top spot in the Energy Efficiency category of the overall competition. Like Canopea, Patio 2.12 was conceived of as a modular home that can go together in different ways, depending on the developer’s needs, and like Med in Italy (the third place winner in the competition), it combines modern design with traditional Mediterranean aesthetics. In a bit of a consolation, we imagine, for losing bragging rights to the top spot at this year’s Solar Decathlon, Patio 2.12 won both the in-person and online vote for the Peoples’ Choice Award.

This year’s competition kicked off in Madrid, Spain, at the beginning of September and concluded September 29. The next Solar Decathlon Europe will take place in Versailles, Frances, in 2014.

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