Madrid is heating up as university teams from around the world battle their wits against the sun to build net-zero, sustainable homes in this year’s European Solar Decathlon. One of our favorite designs so far is the Armadillo Box by students at École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Grenoble (ENSAG). Inspired by the armored creature’s ability to adapt to hot environments, this stunning prefab home features solar panels, a rainwater recycling system, and an ultra-efficient core all wrapped within an insulating shell.

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Grenoble School of Architecture’s house is named after the hard-shelled armadillo for good reason. In Spanish, armadillo means “little one in armour”, and it handles hot climates well partially due to its slow metabolism that generates little heat and its internal cooling system. Taking inspiration from the little critters, The Armadillo Box is made up of a core, skin and outer shell. Inside, the home contains a central core that includes the kitchen, utilities and bathroom — all the main producers of heat and users of energy. The skin is a low-tech, low-cost frame with a super tight insulation made from local, inexpensive materials. Finally the outer shell serves to protect the home’s interior home from the elements, offering shade, natural ventilation and renewable energy generation via solar panels on the roof.

Designed for a couple, the prefab solar home offers an open and flexible interior space and windows and doors that make it possible to take the living space outdoors. Oriented for the best solar access, the home features large windows on the south side that bring in winter light to warm the interior. During the summer, the shell and solar blinds shade the interior, protecting it from the hot sun. Additional cooling is provided by a water-efficient cooling mist system sourced from rainwater collection, which acts to increase the humidity of the air. Materials used in construction are all natural, renewable, or easily recycled.

We look forward to seeing pictures of the house fully constructed in Madrid!