We’re getting excited about this year’s Solar Decathlon and love Virginia Tech’s zero-energy, smart house. Lumenhaus — which is a combination of Lumen, meaning power of light, and Haus, which is a reference to the Bauhaus architectural movement — is a high-tech home that will be sure to garner a lot of attention at the upcoming competition. In fact it’s only one of two US teams to be accepted into the Solar Decathlon Europe, where it will compete against teams from around the world.

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Lumenhaus is an 800-square-foot, 1-bedroom residence with an open floor plan that extends to the outside decks when the Eclipsis System is open. The Eclipsis System is Virginia Tech’s advanced shading system that automatically opens and closes in accordance with the current weather conditions. The Eclipsis System is comprised of two layers: a metal shutter shade and a translucent insulating panel, which is a translucent polycarbonate panel filled with aerogel. Aerogel is a super lightweight, highly insulating translucent material that provides insulation equivalent to a typical sold wall during harsh weather conditions without blocking natural light.

During good weather, the semi-transparent screens open to let in natural daylight and sliding doors extend the living space out onto the deck. During bad weather, the screens slide shut to shelter the house from cold winds, rain or snow. The home’s smart system gathers information from its rooftop weather station to automatically control the screens, rooftop solar system, heating and cooling and lighting.

The roof  is a double efficient solar system, which collects enough energy to make the house a net zero house. The solar panels are bifacial, meaning they use both sides to increase energy output by up to 15 percent, and they system tilts up to the optimum angle. A geothermal heat pump efficiently heats and cools the home. Orientation and design allows for a naturally day-lit home, reducing the need for artificial lighting. The home and energy systems  can also be controlled via smart phone, so if you are away and forgot to turn off the lights, or computer or god forbid the oven, you can remotely turn them off.

As one would expect for a Solar Decathlon entry, the home includes many more green design features, like graywater recycling, rainwater collection, radiant floors, LED lighting, home management system, and use of sustainable materials. While the prototype has cost around $350,000 provided by corporate sponsors, future models should cost less. The prefabricated and modular design of the house allow for efficiency of construction and variation in design that makes it quite a stellar example of home building.  Good luck at the competition, Virginia Tech!