Students from 27 higher education institutions, including 3 Hungarian universities, have been competing since June 27 in the Solar Village in Szentendre. The 10 teams have designed their model homes as part of an international architecture innovation competition, aiming to fulfill the role of energy and cost efficient, solar-powered, unique homes. Coverage by Noémi Szabó.

It turned out that solar panels do not only exist in a single color: they can be manufactured in any color and pattern, only slightly reducing their efficiency. The Dutch team, for example, compensates this by installing them on the facades of high-rise buildings!

The competition Solar Decathlon has been held since 2002 around the world. The aim of the competition is to create model houses which encourage conscious use of renewable energy, using the creativity and innovation capacity of the youth (in cooperation with sponsors and industrial partners). Not only do the teams create plans, but they also build their designs at the venue for the final (first time in Hungary).

Specificity in relation to previous SDE events:
– Teams can choose between 4 different tasks: renovation of traditional Hungarian buildings with brick walls, building a rooftop apartment to increase urban density, a renovation project typical in the team’s country or region of origin, or other proposals to enrich the SDE Community.
– The teams must create four-season designs (cooling, heating).
– For the first time, the houses will remain on site for approximately two months.
– Teams must use locally available materials for the construction.
– Age-friendly home design, neighborhood integration, and market viability are strongly emphasized.

In addition to basic objectives like using materials which reduce impact on the environment and educating the public on responsible energy consumption, this year’s challenge highly supports the development of concepts that can be easily applied during the renovation of already existing buildings.

The Szentendre Solar Village

During the construction period (lasting 15 days), the venue is closed, but afterwards it’s open for both professional and residential inquiry for more than 2 months.

The site is easily accessible, supported by friendly interpreters and well-developed infrastructure. In each model home, a team member is always at the visitor’s disposal and shows them around, speaking both English and Hungarian. In addition, there are information boards all around, which present the background of the projects (in Hungarian, English, and the team’s own language).

The ten contests of SDE19:
1. Architecture
2. Engineering & construction
3. Energy efficiency
4. Communication & social awareness
5. Neighborhood integration & impact
6. Innovation and viability
7. Circularity & sustainability
8. Comfort conditions
9. House functioning
10. Energy balance

Of all the prepared and presented projects, all ten are striking and forward-looking! Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some of the teams, their interesting architectural solutions, and their environmental advantages of these solutions:

Hungarian NEST+ project

The Hungarian-Algerian SOMEshine Team, for example, has used a natural ventilation system, called Venturi tower, to „exhaust” used air. This central atrium can even be used to build an indoor garden. Natural materials were used for the construction: adobe fiber board in the wood-framed walls for proper thermal insulation, and adobe plaster with a waterproofing layer in the bathroom.

According to architect student Evelin Szücs, results of ecological thought are the sliding shades around the house, which are made of the rapidly spreading, noxious, and invasive false indigo bush, and the kitchen’s aluminum foam wall, which is made out of recycled aluminum scrap.

Apart from the solar panels, there’s of course a green roof solution, too.

MOR project

The Dutch MOR Team TU Deft offers solutions to two problems in the Netherlands at once: outdated office buildings with an energy rating of C or worse, which are getting prohibited soon, and a serious housing crisis. Both issues can be remedied by converting the high-rise buildings into sustainable homes, made inexpensive by simple and environmentally friendly technology.

Waste water treatment is realized with helophyte filters: in the first tank, solids and floating fat are separated. In the second one, the water is biologically cleaned by bacteria and plants. The third one stores the treated water, which isn’t drinking water, but it’s perfectly suited for flushing toilets and irrigation. The PCM Green Wall, aside from being aesthetically pleasing, effectively cleans and cools incoming air, which can then be used in other parts of the house.

Deirdre van Gameren, a student at the Delft University of Technology, explained the structure of the facade: for easy assembly, unified, modular, colored solar panels were placed on the walls, since, in case of a high-rise building, this surface is exposed to sunlight the most, and a built-in solar chimney/collector serves to heat up residential water.

TO project

One of the Spanish teams, the TO Team, didn’t mix sustainability with comfort, but rather focused on bringing attention to users’ consumption habits. To this end, the group has created a community space where people are directly involved in all dimensions of housing. For example, in order to wash our hands, we need to pump the water with out foot. And to adjust the lighting and the temperature, we need to handle an array of „filters” (curtains, shades). Based on the idea of a Japanese designer, the team has created a chamber where vegetables and fruits can be kept fresh without cooling, by utilizing the qualities of the plants.

Using the ideas

The organizers will create a visitor center from the buildings for the long-term promotion of innovative ideas, which can now be utilized anywhere in the world. With the presented concepts they encourage the construction industry to use materials and systems that can reduce the environmental impact of buildings throughout their lifecycle, and they highlight the correct order of intervention: first, decrease the energy consumption and increase the efficiency of buildings, and only then proceed with the integration of solar and other renewable technologies.

You can read the author’s previous articles here, here and here.

Sources: here and here.

Source of text in speech bubbles: here.

The article was originally published in the ZIP magazine’s 04/2019 issue.

Translated by Ádám Hittaller

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