Canopea House of France Came On Top, Para Eco-House of China, Counter Entropy House of Germany, Omotenashi House of Japan In Solar Decathlon Europe 2012


Dear Friends & Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

(Please click on red links, below)

While visiting the eighteen houses in Villa Solar in Madrid, Spain, designed by university students from eleven countries, I was thoroughly impressed by their creative use of solar passive and active energy systems and  much consideration for reuse-recycling-conservation of all natural resources.

Of all eighteen designs that participated in Solar Decathlon Europe (SDE) 2012, one stood above all others in many respect, not only in the physical sense (the fact that this design represented a nanotower concept), but also due to its  special consideration for individuals’ relationship to nature and to community.  The Canopea House of Team Rhone-Alpes (of Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture de Grenoble of France)

Canopea of Rhone-Alpes of Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture de Grenoble of France, Winner of Solar Decathlon Europe of 2012: Nanotower (top) & Top Floor (bottom).Canopea is the winner of Overall, Comfort Conditions Contest, Functioning on the House Contest, and Innovation Contest

answered the modern concern for population density in the French alpine corridor cities where land is scarce and expensive (resulting from limited urban space due to presence of mountains and rivers): in terms of  space, comfort, investment and maintenance cost, reducing sense of isolation while increasing sense of community through shared living space on top floor (with common laundry, summer kitchen, relaxing place for the community, gardens, and storage boxes) and  communal gardening area, and connected transit network, services, and shops.  But the most inviting feature, for me, was the top communal floor where natural sunlight splashing down from the solar cell-patterned ceiling (truly reflecting the idea of human being living below the canopy), residents  swinging in various hammocks, BBQ, or converse with neighbors.  That sense of shared community chased away any feeling of  isolation often seen in urban sprawl.  This design truly is the most wholistic answer not just for our energy consumption but also our humanity.

The second house featured in this clip, Para Eco-House of  Tongji Team (of Tongj University of China),

Para Eco House of Tongji Team of Tongji University of China

combined both parametric and ecological strategies into the design of this house while utilizing passive and active energy systems in this project.  The concept of multi-layer skin emerged from a combination of Dao theory in Eastern philosophy and the theories of Michel Foucault in Western thought, especially the ideas of autonomy in architecture. The two philosophies merged, as did the active and passive energy systems, into a symbiotic relationship, with mutual benefit.  I was very intrigued by its external  lattice skin/rhomboid wall designed by a computer program written by Tongji University students, based on climate data collected from Madrid, Spain.  To name some of its ecological strategies:  PV panels, solar collector system, motorized sun tracking solar panels, PVT system, gray water treatment and ventilation aid, wetland filter system, water south heat pump with heat recovery unit, rain water harvesting, evaporating water cooling, architectural shading, inner courtyard ventilation, vertical green, composite skin system, VIP thermal proof wall, bamboo furniture, temperature-humidity independent control system, mist propagation system, LED lighting, etc.

Below, you will see this video clip composed of highlights of 4 designs of Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 (details of these individual designs can also be found at our sunisthefuture Youtube Channel):

The third design in this clip, the Counter Entropy House

Counter Entropy House of RWTH Aachen University of Germany during Solar Decathlon Europe 2012


RWTH University from Germany, was based on the idea of optimizing resources and energy life cycle of a building in which the production,transport, and eventual disposal components were all considered. This house included products made from recycled material and direct or indirect object recycling (such as facade made from melted CD panels, the floor made from old beams of Aachener stadium, and the furnishing made from reused wooden boards collected from bulk rubbish). Counter Entropy design combined multifunctional and space-saving configurations to create maximum space by optimal use and adaptation to current situation.  Its coolest feature was the transparent moving wall, remotely controlled by IPad/notepad, as though magic was in place during a scene in Star Trek;this feature also provided most fantastic ventilation/fresh air. It was also based on the idea of a thermal cooling system being much more sustainable than climatizing the house with electricity.  So, the abandonment of a mechanical heat pump as the central element of the building services engineering was the main aim while a far-reaching use of solar thermal energy was used to provide the energy needed air-conditioning. The solar thermal energy provided significant advantages over the exclusive use of photovoltaic cells. The second system was the cooling ceiling fed by a  special fluid circle: rain water from the tank cools down the dispersion, water blended with PCM within the cold-storage tank via a heat exchanger.  The dispersion in the cold storage tank is pumped through the ceiling, cooling down the room temperature by means of radiation cooling.

The fourth and final segment of this clip was the Omotenashi House

Omotenashi House of Chiba University of Japan during Solar Decathlon Europe 2012

of the Chiba University of Japan, a new type of housing and lifestyle centered on promoting energy and food self sufficiency by reintroducing the agricultural environment into the residence.  Besides rice paddies in front and vegetations on side of the house, the plant factory (with controlled temperature and humidity) is seen being used for rapid, safe, and efficient cultivation of crops.  Engawa (an encounter space connecting the interior to exterior of the house) is  where one may encounter people, nature, the movement of time, or to enjoy activities such as growing plants or enjoying tea with visiting neighbors. The movable tatami mat units in the engawa allowed the semi outdoor space to be reconfigured, enabling a variety of living environments.  Omotenashi House was built from precise, robot-made units, reducing energy use and CO2 emissions during construction.  With the roof tile-shaped solar panels (as BIPV, building-integrated solar PV) , it can produce 1.7 times the electrical capacity produced by previous panels, while presenting the appearance of traditional Japanese roof.  Omotenashi House also used material such as Japanese tatami and recycled decking (regulating the indoor environment and produce low VOC’s).  Furthermore, these are all biodegradable sustainable materials.  This design from Japan definitely had thoughtfully considered our life with plants, link between indoor and outdoor, and health and sustainability of all.

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~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker,


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