At press time, Rome's super efficient MED in Italy house was in first place at the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe competition, leading the Para Eco-House by a couple of points. Of course, this can change on a near hourly basis, but the Italian group's efforts to ensure the best energy and material performance are already beginning to pay off. From the outside, a protective shield makes the home look rather unremarkable, but step past it into a leafy central courtyard and you'll feel like you've entered a whole new world.
MED in Italy is a clever play on words that refers to the fact that the home was made in Italy, but it also refers to the Mediterranean climate around which the home was designed. In order to be able to use wood as the main construction material and still maintain high energy performance, the team from Rome added wall layers that can be filled with heavy materials with good thermal mass once the home is installed.
In addition to catering to the typical Mediterranean lifestyle (think leisurely drinks on the terrace), the central courtyard acts as a buffer zone between the protective shield and the remaining home. Rainwater is collected underneath the deck to maintain the numerous plants in this verdant space, which contributes to water conservation.
Inside the home has a bohemian feel. This is amplified by the colorful choice of decor and a giant fish painted on the wall, which elongates the compact space. And finally, the rooftop photovoltaic panels generate rouhgly 9.330 kWh of energy per year, nearly double what is necessary, while tubes of thermal sand store leftover energy that is used to heat the house overnight. Keep up the good work MED in Italy!