A team of students from four Swiss universities has taken the top prize at the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon event, held this week in Denver, Colorado.
The Swiss team, made up of students from the Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne, the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, the Geneva University of Art and Design, and the University of Fribourg, took first place overall with their innovative, solar-powered modular “community centre” buildingexternal link – the so-called “NeighborHub”.
Its walls are covered with custom-built solar panels, with specially designed "power optimisers" to monitor and adjust its usage. On the roof, the solar panels are replaced by green vegetation, to boost biodiversity.
After more than a week of showcasing the project both to public and judges in Denver – explaining its potential as a future model for renewable design – the concluding prize was awarded on Saturday night.
And as well as the top overall distinction, which comes with a cheque for $300,000 (CHF292,000), the Swiss project also came out on top in six of ten sub-categories: architecture, engineering, energy, water, health and comfort, and home life.
Across the board
On Friday, the Swiss students nailed a perfect score of 100 in the “highly competitive” Solar Decathlon architecture contest.
“The Swiss Team house provides a rethinking of solar in architecture: PV (photovoltaics), windows and solar thermal are all integrated into one wall design,” said Tim Unruh, DOE Assistant Deputy Secretary for Renewable Power.
For the water contest, where the students scored 95, their house was judged on how well it conserved water, and allowed for its reclamation and reuse.
“The jurors noted that the [Swiss Team] had the most comprehensive and integrated management of water at Solar Decathlon 2017. With a green roof, this house expertly integrates storm water into its design,” said Scott Morrissey, director of sustainability at Denver International Airport.
The annual collegiate Solar Decathlon competition comprises ten different contests – each worth 100 points for a total perfect score of 1000 – which all focus on the development and design of comfortable and functional, full-sized solar-powered housing units that combine high energy and water efficiency.
The winning entry is chosen based on a blend of “design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency”.
The Swiss students had to dismantle their entry and ship it to Denver in 12 containers, and then reassemble it again.