Javier Alonso Huerta

In a turn of events following back-to-back wins by European teams in the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial Solar Decathlon, an American team took top honors in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 competition. Lumenhaus, the entry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was named the most efficient entry of the inaugural European competition. It was the first win for Virginia Tech after participating in the 2002, 2005, and 2009 U.S. Solar Decathlons. The only other American team competing in the 17-team event, the University of Florida, received an online public choice award, decided by an Internet voting campaign.

Lumenhaus edged out the second place finisher, team Ikaros-Bavaria from the University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim, Germany, by one point. Inspired by the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe, the 800-square-foot Lumenhaus features a rectangular open plan. The steel frame is topped by structural insulated roof panels that support an array of 45 grid-tied solar panels. The north and south walls are constructed entirely of glass and are buffered from the outdoors by the Eclipsis System, an automated system of sliding screens that include stainless steel shutter screens and aerogel-filled translucent insulating polycarbonate panels. It is designed to maximize daylight so that no electric light is needed during the day. To the south, the circular shade perforations of the shutter panels are designed to block direct sunlight while maintaining exterior views and interior privacy. To the north, the perforations are more porous to allow more sunlight. Energy collected during the day is then used at night through an LED system built into the Eclipsis System panels.

Other sustainable features include an automated geothermal heat-pump system, radiant flooring, low-VOC paints, Energy Star appliances, and materials made with recycled content, containing low embodied energy, or made from rapidly renewable materials.

For more information on the house, visit lumenhaus.com/eu. For more information on the Solar Decathlon Europe, visit sdeurope.org.