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Green Building News

A Solar Decathlon Entry from Europe’s Far North

Team Finland’s Luukku project aims to show it is suited not only to winter in northern Europe, but also to June weather in central Spain, where Solar Decathlon Europe is making its debut

Competing in Madrid. Team Finland’s Luukku is one of 17 entries in Solar Decathlon Europe, which is scheduled for June 18 through 27 in Madrid, Spain.
Image Credit: Team Finland / Aalto University, Science and Technology, Department of Architecture, Wood Program
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Competing in Madrid. Team Finland’s Luukku is one of 17 entries in Solar Decathlon Europe, which is scheduled for June 18 through 27 in Madrid, Spain.
Image Credit: Team Finland / Aalto University, Science and Technology, Department of Architecture, Wood Program
More than 100 people from various departments at Aalto University, in Helsinki, collaborated on the design and construction of Luukku. Wood is the main ingredient in Luukku, from siding to insulation to interior finishes. Team Finland used IDA Indoor Climate & Energy software to model the performance of the structure and its mechanical systems. Team Finland designed Luukku to accommodate windows that can be switched out relatively easily. Before Luukku was dismantled for shipping to Madrid, Team Finland demonstrated how quickly windows for the structure can be switched out.

Solar Decathlon Europe makes its debut on Friday with 17 academic teams from Europe, Asia, and the United States presenting their versions of compact, highly energy efficient homes.

The host city is, appropriately enough, Madrid. In October 2007, officials representing Spain’s Ministry of Housing and the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy department of the U.S. Department of Energy signed an agreement that established the Solar Decathlon Europe, although the competition is open to teams of students and faculty from universities worldwide.

The weather in Spain this time of year likely will be fairly solar-power friendly, but at least one decathlon team, notes a recent Inhabitat post, comes from Finland, where sunshine, even in the southern part of the country, is in relatively short supply during the winter. That, in fact, is a point of interest in Team Finland project, called Luukku. About 100 people from various departments at Aalto University, in Helsinki, have collaborated to adapt the team’s entry to not only perform to net zero energy in Finland but adapt comfortably to climate conditions in central Spain.

Wood to the core

Luukku, the team explains on its website and Facebook pages, means hatch in Finnish, although its colloquial interpretation is “residence.” The building’s design is a take on Finnish summerhouses, and focuses heavily on the use of wood. The team used IDA Indoor Climate & Energy software to model the performance of the structure’s wooden and wood-based insulation, cladding, interior flooring, and wall and ceiling finishes.

To enhance the adaptability of the house, the team opted to use windows that can be switched out relatively easily, with each window set featuring a glazing design and U-factor rating best suited to the regional climate. The team relied heavily on Finnish manufacturers for Luukku’s materials and mechanical systems, including a hot-and-cold-air system supplied by Enervent and phase-change materials in the interior walls to store heat.

The site comes to life

In a blog posted on the DOE Solar Decathlon website Richard King, director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, reported from Madrid that the decathlon installations were slowed by rain on Saturday, although sunny weather on Sunday accelerated construction activity. King writes that people are already talking about the quality of the woodworking in Luukku and a couple entries from Germany. He also says that the Spanish organizers changed U.S. Solar Decathlon rules slightly by adding a new contest called Innovation and Sustainability.

“This rule has produced many green technologies for sustainability, which our event also does,” King explains. “But more notable here is the innovation. The universities are trying advanced technology and new ideas. I have just scratched the surface in my 24 hours of scouting, but this event is certainly pushing the envelope. For those who love R&D, following their progress and effectiveness throughout the contest should provide interesting and exciting results.”

Solar Decathlon Europe will continue through June 27.

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