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26.04.2017 von: iimt

Solar Decathlon Competition & NeighborHub

NeighborHub, the ecofriendly house that students will enter into this fall's Solar Decathlon, is now being built in the Experimentations Hall of the smart living lab in Fribourg. The structure isgoing up and the engineering plans have been completed. A first visit for the NeighborHub’s partners was organised on Friday, the 10th of March 2017, and it was a great success.

The students taking part in the Swiss Living Challenge – the Swiss entry into the Solar Decathlon – have begun building the house they plan to enter the international competition, which is run by the US Department of Energy. The house, dubbed NeighborHub, is taking shape in the Experimentations Hall of the smart living lab at the blueFACTORY site in Fribourg.

The Solar Decathlon was established as an international competition between universities in the United States in 2002. The goal is to design and build a home powered only by solar power in the space of 18 months. Indeed, the Swiss Team has been preparing for the Solar Decathlon 2017 since 2015. This year’s event will take place in Denver, Colorado from the 5th to the 15th of October. The Swiss Team is made up of around 50 students from four higher education institutions: the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg (HEIA-FR), the Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD) and the University of Fribourg (UNIFR) united under the banner of the Swiss Living Challenge.

A multifunctional space...
The Swiss team has designed an instigator of change, a neighborhood house that can be integrated into various urban settings. The aim of NeighborHub, as it is called, is to bring neighbors together, working with them on more energyefficient solutions. There are seven issues to consider: energy, mobility, choice of materials, biodiversity, food, waste management and water management. Visitors can get advice and take part in interactive events and discussions on these seven themes. NeighborHub’s architectural design includes a large multifunctional space to facilitate these various interactions.

...that speaks to you
Inside NeighborHub there is a temperate zone, the skin, with a heated space, the core, in the middle. These two areas are divided into four modules: an equipment room, a kitchen, a bathroom with a separate dry toilet and a private space with a bedroom. In this shared dwelling, not only the walls but also the furniture and other surfaces speak, as it were, to the building’s occupants by means of printed text and a system of signage devised specially for a shared space.

Sunshine and plants for the building envelope
In line with the Solar Decathlon’s competition rules, solar panels have been installed on NeighborHub’s exterior surfaces, providing 100% of its power. Contrary to common practice, however, these panels are not fixed to the roof; instead, you’ll find the solar and thermal panels on the building’s façades and doors. The external surface consists of photovoltaic cells, together with opaque polycarbonate panels and transparent acrylic panes.

A closed water cycle

The roof of the building is partly covered by plant matter, and rainwater is collected in the middle. The water used in the NeighborHub can be separated out into various types – much like for waste recycling. The rainwater collected on the roof is used for some domestic appliances, as its low mineral content minimizes scaling. The waste water from these appliances, as well as from showers and sinks, gets used as grey water, which is treated using a phyto-purification process: the water is filtered and purified using a reed bed with different layers of gravel. There is no ‘black water’ from conventional toilets in NeighborHub, as the building is instead equipped with dry toilets.

Timber rooms shipped across the ocean
The international nature of the Solar Decathlon competition means the project is subject to an extremely tight timetable. After the building has been constructed, it will be disassembled and must then be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean before reaching the competition venue. This journey cuts down the time allocation for the only two teams based in Europe. This crucial logistical factor was taken into account from the start of the project, however, and so the NeighborHub is made up of modules whose dimensions are suitable for the containers in which they will be shipped. These modules are made entirely out of wood, which is light and has a positive carbon balance.

The NeighborHub can be freely visited during the Open day on the 10th of June 2017. More information:
Source: iimt - University of Fribourg

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