Gallery: SOLAR DECATHLON 2007: Darmstadt’s Stunning Solar House


Combining the manufacturing expertise of Volkswagen with a beautiful modern design sensibility, the Technische Universität Darmstadt’s wowed the crowds this week at the 2007 Solar Decathlon with their gorgeously innovative Solar Decathlon home. The Darmstadt home combines both high-tech active solar and low-tech passive solar components into smart operable building envelope of movable photovoltaic shutters. This clever solar shutter system bears more than a passing resemblance to old school German wooden shutters — only writ large, spanning every exterior surface of house and covered with photovolaic panels that generate electricity while they simultaneously shade the house from the sun.

And the judges and viewers on hand at this years Solar Decathlon event seem to agree that the Darmstadt house is a cut above. Darmstadt won the first prize of the competition in the architecture round and have been continuing to rack up points in every category. They are currently running a close second in the competition – behind only Maryland. Darmstadt also seems to be the popular choice at the show – the house was constantly mobbed by people and surrounded by long, winding, Disneyland-esque lines.

The Darmstadt House design is based on a platform system which allows for customization and quick assembly, all made in Germany using German technologies and materials like local German oak. The student team began with an automotive-inspired and uber-German concept: In the 1990’s Volkswagen created the platform system for cars, and the student designers wanted to use the same concept of prefabrication and platform design to design an applicable and flexible system. The home’s platform system consists of a space for the building technologies, large spaces, and strategically-arranged interiors for floor integration and flexibility.

The main structure of our house consists of three modules. The construction of each module, from bottom to top, is a platform, living area and roof. The platform is composed of a top layer and a bottom layer, between those two layers is room for technical installations, storage and integrated furniture. This platform system allows for innovative furniture and storage solutions which are embedded in the floor. Like something resembling a burrow — the bed, couches and all storage are folded into the floor, saving space in a unique and cozy way.



Instead of focusing on the production of massive amounts of energy, the home focuses on keeping cool with passive solar design, meaning it demands a minimum amount of energy to function normally. To achieve this, the building’s shell became a central design component- the outer layer consists of oak louvered frames which, same as the roof, are equipped with photovoltaic panels. This layer both generates electricity and also provides protection from the heat of the sun.

One of the most unique features of the Technische Universität Darmstadt’s home is their flat roof. While most homes at the Solar Decathlon utilize a pitched roof to maximize the efficiency of the photovoltaics, this home’s highly-insulated flat roof consists of multiple layers that yield insulation 10 times better in comparison to an equal thickness layer of polysterole insulation.

And in true cradle-to-cradle fashion, the house will return to Germany after the Solar Decathlon and used as a solar power plant to power on-campus buildings and feed into the German power grid.

Check out our photos of the event here >

+ Technische Universität Darmstadt Solar Decathlon

+ Solar Decathlon 2007

+ Inhabitat photo coverage of the 2007 Solar Decathlon


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  1. Necessary Roughness &ra... May 20, 2008 at 10:49 am

    […] donations they were able to get it down to around $310,000. Darmstadt won the competition with a $2,000,000 house. Europe is in the middle of a movement to be self-sufficient with energy, so Darmstadt wanted the […]

  2. jim October 20, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Might I backup The Revolution Corporation – Right On! We have developed a “Whole House” System with a $3 million projected prototype cost and a less than $50/sf projected market cost. Our solar roof is projected to cost $2 million for the prototype yet cost the same as a conventional roof in the marketplace. Our solar PolyARCH roof is designed to span up to 300 feet, is projected to cost about $2.5 million for the first prototype and cost less than half what a current mega-store non-solar roof costs.

    P.S. I made a 28 hr round trip from the West Coast to see the Solar Decathlon and had two choices ~ wait in line to see the Darmsadt home and miss my return flight – or study it from the outside with the help of one of their students. He did an excellent job and I made my return flight. But I sure wish I could have seen the interior as well.

  3. Ibook G4 Info » P... October 20, 2007 at 5:38 am

    […] and livable as they are energy efficient. Looking as if they stepped off the pages of a magazine, Germany’s gorgeous Darmstadt House and Colorado’s eye-catching CORE house prove that zero-energy design is simply not just an […]

  4. What’s Green Buil... October 20, 2007 at 4:53 am

    […] of Cincinnatti’s colorful contribution here, Darmstadt Germany’s stunning design here and University of Colorado’s CORE concept […]

  5. The Revolution Corporation October 19, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    In reference to the cost of the Darmstadt house. Remember that this is a first generation prototype, and a test bed for new technology. $730K is not what the production model would cost. Think automotive prototyping. The consumer doesn’t pay the prototype cost for their $21K Prius. And should a Prius really cost $21K ?!?
    Just as with every other product that is prototyped, you WILL see the technology that has been developed in this house on the market for a much reduced price within the next ten years.

  6. Inhabitat » GERMA... October 19, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    […] of this years Solar Decathlon competition! In order to win this prestigious design competition, the German team had to beat out a whole slew of American universities on U.S. turf (the National Mall in Washington […]

  7. Peter October 19, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    An absolutly beautiful house, but did anyone take a look at the team’s web page? Please do, click “Our House” the click “Charges”. You will notice that this house cost over $1.3 million to make and bring to the US. $730,000+ in construction costs alone!!! I know this is a competition and price is often overlooked but i couldn’t help but think that Sustainability has to address economics as well as the environment if it is ever to make a real impace on our world.
    All the “talk” about green/sustainability is based on saving energy and saving money. These houses are under 800 sq ft so how is building at $916 per sq foot sustainable? You could build a really nice 1600 sq ft house at a luxurious $150 sq ft = $240,000…put another $100,000 into “green” upgrades and then still have $400,000 left to pay for all the energy you could ever use. Is that proving that sustainability is undenyable?

  8. Complaint Hub » B... October 19, 2007 at 7:44 am

    […] Inhabitat » SOLAR DECATHLON 2007: Technische Universität Darmstadt Combining the manufacturing expertise of Volkswagen with a stunningly modern design sensibility, the Technische Universität Darmstadt’s wowed the crowds this week at the 2007 Solar Decathlon with their gorgeously innovative Solar Decathlon home. […]

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