Gallery: Heliotrope: The World’s First Energy Positive Solar Home


Look, up in the sky — it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the Heliotrope! The brainchild of Architect Ralph Disch, this rotating solar home was the seed for the extraordinary Sonnenschiff Solar Development and the modern solar movement in Germany. The home takes full advantage of the sun by rotating with it, allowing daylight to course though its triple-pane windows and energize its large roof-mounted solar array and solar thermal pipes. The result is one of the first zero-energy modern homes in the world — one that actually ends up generating five times the energy it consumes.

Twenty-five years ago, when Ralph Disch’s hometown of Freiburg, Germany considered building a nuclear power plant built nearby, he fought vigorously to keep it from happening. As he applied his passion to finding an alternative, he looked to the sun. The resulting Helitrope home is a vigorous concept that makes incredible use of solar energy thanks to its kinetic design. Mounted on a pole, the home is timed to rotate 180 degrees through the day, following the sun’s track. The 6.6 kWH solar panels on top produce more than enough energy to make the home net energy positive. A unique hand railing system on the roof doubles as solar thermal tubing that heats the home’s water and radiators.

The home also re-uses greywater and rainwater for domestic use and features a composting toilet system. While the practicality of the home’s design may not have caught on, the principles behind it speak to a genuine revolution in sustainable design that many architects are only now starting to realize.

+ Ralph Disch Solar Architecture


or your inhabitat account below


  1. MIT Introduces Paper-Th... October 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    […] seeing cells that can be folded up into paper airplanes! Recently revealed, MIT’s paper solar cells feature five layers of solid material layered on a paper substrate. When combined, the […]

  2. maduks September 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    i think its beautiful the whole thing is greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen

  3. MIT Develops Self-Assem... September 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    […] ready for super-charged solar cells! MIT researchers announced this week that they have developed self-assembling solar cells that can […]

  4. ellenbetty August 27, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Cost vs return on investment is important. If the house cost a million$ to build and save 200$ a month in electric bills, then it will take several times the lifetime of the building to pay off the extra $800,000 it cost to build this rotating house

  5. solardan August 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Give credit where it is due. This design looks very much like Buckminster Fuller’s original Dymaxion house which rotated to follow the sun, or rotated away from the sun to keep cool. I’m sure the architect must have been inspired by Fuller. It is good to see his ideas finally getting built.

  6. Sam G August 22, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    A way to take the energy of the sun, put it to great use, and use the downfall of the amount of heat the panels capture to heat the water… Genius. =]

  7. nologinsplease August 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Make it affordable like an average home and then it will be news. It’s gorgeous, but still not available to the masses where it would have the biggest effect.

  8. UnicornDroppings August 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    OMG! That’s so awesome. Inhabitat found yet another Photoshop fabricated “vision of the future” that is sure to save the unicorns from the evil carbon monster.

    I know that outrageous headlines with no semblance of truth or reality are de rigueur on Inhabitat but, come one! People have been building real life energy positive solar homes sine the 1970’s. This is NOT a new concept. This is NOT a vision of the future. This is NOT a big deal.

  9. PingYoo9 August 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Oh wow, thats just way to cool. Nice pad!


get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home