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First step on the way to Solar Decathlon in Dubai

An interactive clock indicating the energy consumption, the use of direct current to save energy, a large shared space that makes living efficient and social: these are just some of the characteristics of the innovative and sustainable home that the student team VIRTUe of the Eindhoven University of Technology has built on the TU/e campus. With this house, they will represent the Netherlands in the international construction competition Solar Decathlon in November in Dubai. On Monday 4 June, the house will be officially opened during Dutch Technology Week.

Connecting residents with technology and with each other. That is what VIRTUe – a team of more than 40 students from TU/e and Fontys University of Applied Sciences – wants to achieve with the self-designed residential building called LINQ. In this apartment complex with several floors a ‘sharing economy’ for residents is a central ingredient.

“The rooms are separated by a large, shared space that brings residents into contact with each other,” says Ellen van den Bersselaar, project manager at VIRTUe. “Here is a lot of green – ‘a vertical garden – and the people here share facilities such as a kitchen, laundry room, and gym.” According to the team, this encourages a diverse and social community, but also saves energy and living costs.

With LINQ, the students will represent the Netherlands in the international construction competition Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018 in Dubai, which begins on 14 November. During the contest, the team will actually build one of the houses in the complex. It is the upper house that contains the sloping roof with solar panels: the slightly sloping angle helps maximize the energy yield with shade and coolness being created in the building.

“This house also showcases all the technology and innovation that the entire building contains,” says Van den Bersselaar. For example, the apartment has one central module that contains all the technical installations, such as electricity and water. A smart system allows residents to continuously see how the house ‘performs’ through an interactive clock. The house also uses direct current instead of the conventional alternating current. “Alternating current was once the best option for transporting electricity over long distances, but since we now get our energy directly from solar panels, DC is a lot more efficient,” says Van den Bersselaar.

During Dutch Technology Week, there are various activities in the house for crowdfunders, such as an escape room, cooking workshop, and overnight stays. The house is open to the public on Friday and Saturday.

The Solar Decathlon is an international building competition for universities aimed at promoting innovative and sustainable building. Teams get ten days to build their house. All designs are then assessed in ten different categories – hence the name ‘decathlon’ – such as architecture, energy consumption and innovation. There will be an overall winner and winners per category. The total prize pool is around 2.3 million euros. A total of 21 teams from 16 countries from all over the world are taking part.

Main photo: Bart van Overbeeke

Team VIRTUe at the start of their project