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LUMENHAUS – A Net-Zero-Energy House On The Road

May 14, 2012

A lot of low- or zero-energy houses have been built around the world in the last decades, but the story of LUMENHAUS is really a special one, for different reasons. This fully prebricated net-zero-energy house was the third one designed and built at the Virginia Tech to participate to the Solar Decathlon Europe Competition and the first to win it.

The design team were students working on the projects for three years lead by prof. Joseph Wheeler coordinating inputs by other Virgina Tech teachers and the expertise of ICT and building sector manufacturers.

According to the rules of Solar Decathlon Europe, the house had to be designed and built by a team of students and comply with predefined energy and budgetary standards that made the competitors comparable. Finally the house had to be built on site by the team and be fully operational (and open to the public) during the “competition week”. That means putting a considerable effort in making it robust, transportable and easy to build, including the open air garden.

The awarding of Solar Decatholn 2010 took place in Madrid, so that Lumenhaus travelled from US Virginia to Spain and then back to the US in an amazing roadshow including  Washington D.C. National Mall, New York Times Square, Chicago Millennium Park and at the Farnsworth House in Plano Ill.

One of the issues this Blog is about is the definition of quality indicators for design at all scales: from product to landscape design. The Solar Decathlon Europe competition is very interesting to this extent, being based on a comprehensive multi-criteria assessment procedure in which each competitor gets a combined score subdivided in ten fields:

1. Architecture
2. Engineering & Construction
3. Energy Efficiency
4. Electrical Energy Balance
5. Comfort Conditions
6. House Functioning
7. Communication and Social Awareness
8. Industrialization & Market Viability
9. Innovation
10. Sustainability

The scoring mechanism is further articulated in three types of evaluations:

1. Task Completion Scoring [Measured]
The teams will obtain points for successfully completing the requested tasks. Points will be awarded as a function of “closeness to completion”.

2. Monitored performance Scoring [Measured]
During the competition week, the house will be continuously monitored and specific measurements will also be done. The scoring is based on the approach to the goal predetermined in the contests.

3. Points awarded by jury
Expert jurors will award points according to the assessment evaluation criteria and guidelines developed by SDE.

As a combination of these evaluation process  in 2010 LUMENHAUS became the highest score, resulting particularly excellent in architecture, engineering and construction. After the award in Madrid the LUMENHAUS has travelled back to the US for a roadshow advocating for a durable, comfortable and maybe even affordable version of high-tech net-zero energy houses.

One more aknowledgement came to LUMENHAUS in 2012 with the AIA Institute Honour Award . The Jury commented that

The creative use of materials and the flexibility of its components quickly respond to changes in the environment through automated systems that optimize energy consumption.

The plan and section are orchestrated by light and materials to enhance the perception of a small footprint.

The interior is cleverly designed with comfortable if compact spaces, compatible materials, and a rationale and clear layout.

The project was introduced in several conferences in the US and in Europe, eventually also in Milan where I had the pleasure to introduce Joseph Wheeler at the Architects’ Chamber Foundation. Here is a video including a short interview to and a detailed summary of his presentation.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 6:16 am

    Great shots.thank you for sharing.
    marg swarnabhoomi

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