VIRTUe, a student team from the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands has created a housing scheme to transform urban living. The self-sufficient housing model called Ripple strives to create a ripple effect through its innovative design that encourages residents to adopt a sustainable-living mindset. VIRTUe has developed Ripple for the Solar Decathlon Europe 2021/22 (SDE21) in Wuppertal, Germany, where they will be competing against 17 other teams in summer 2022.

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Edge view of wooden house with an external staircase leading to open rooftop garden

The theme for SDE21 is “solutions for the cities of tomorrow.” Projects can fall under one of three categories: those that renovate pre-existing buildings in Wuppertal, those that serve as an infill between gaps in the urban fabric or those that attach to an existing building and serve to sustainably increase urban density. Ripple falls into this final category.

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Top view looking down to the rooftop garden with wooden decking and raised solar panels

The Ripple house is primarily constructed using repurposed wood. Colored solar panels that match the tone of the wood are used to harness solar energy. Depending on the site, the solar panels can be moved or oriented differently in order to best capture sunlight. By primarily capturing photovoltaic energy from the exterior walls, the rooftop is freed for urban farming and can be used to create a microclimate to foster the region’s biodiversity.

View across a desk towards a living space with shelving and a bed at the back facing a floor-to-ceiling window

Each unit consists of modules centered around a stationary technical core. Two apartments are bridged together by a communal space that consists of the living room and kitchen. An interface is included to control the house’s integrated systems. Based on the program of the interiors and the requirements of inhabitants, modules for the kitchenette and bathroom can be moved around as needed, while larger furniture pieces contain in-built storage compartments to maximize the small space.

View looking past kitchen towards living spaces with wood clad interior and in-built wooden shelves

To streamline maintenance, the house has self-sufficiency systems, including the solar-powered hot water system, heat pump, ventilation and the smart home system EQUI. EQUI ensures energy is distributed as efficiently as possible throughout the day. The system uses weather forecast information to calculate approximately how much energy will be stored each day. Additionally, residents can use the system to power amenities when solar energy peaks to maximize the use of passive energy sources.

EQUI control system interface

Alongside systems within the house, VIRTUe has developed an app called Recapp that connects with systems in the house and facilities in the city. The app is used to encourage Ripple housing residents to achieve various sustainability goals. This playful approach connects individuals to their urban environment and pushes them to start making small eco-friendly lifestyle changes that have significant impacts over time.

Corner view of wood clad house on a wooden deck next to benches that have in-built planters

Overall, Ripple embodies three tenets for multifaceted success: attractive, adaptive and active. The design incorporates beautiful architectural details alongside innovative technology, while remaining flexible to suit the needs of the site and residents. Furthermore, the integrated technology systems actively focus on positively shifting the inhabitants’ mindsets, thus encouraging them to build more environmentally-savvy habits.


Images via VIRTUe