The 2017 US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has come to a close in Denver. The competition tasks students with building prototype solar-powered houses and awards points based on categories including architecture, engineering, and innovation. This year's winner blends green design with a plan to encourage the surrounding community to get together and discuss ways to use less energy.
The NeighborHub is designed by the Swiss Team, which is made up of students from Swiss universities. It came first out of a total of 11 homes, nine of which derive from the United States, with the other exception from the Netherlands.
Externally, the NeighborHub is a pretty simple looking rectangular single-story home built from laminated veneer lumber (an engineered wood product), with ample glazing. Its facade is partially covered in solar panels which produce electricity and heat water. The facade is also operable and can be raised to open the home to the outside.
The dwelling is topped by a partially green roof. Rainwater is used to grow food and plants which attract bees, while leftover water is used for laundry. In a novel touch that's not for the squeamish, a dry toilet uses live worms to process human waste into compost.
Apart from its efficiency, the big idea behind the NeighborHub is to create a shared space that can aid the surrounding community.
On this note, its interior includes flexible multifunctional spaces that can aid the local area, including a large dining space for community meals, a conference room for educational workshops, and a bike repair area to promote cycling instead of car use.
The prototype home will now be disassembled and returned to Switzerland to be rebuilt and tested. The team will also take home US$300,000 in prize money, as this year's Solar Decathlon competition is the first to offer cash prizes (the other competing teams will also receive smaller prizes).