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The “Ecolar” team from the City of Constance on Lake Constance has begun constructing their house for Decathlon Europe 2012. The unsettled weather has led to unwanted interruptions.
© Team Ecolar, HTWG Konstanz
Solar Decathlon Europe 2012

In the beginning was … the base plate. Students from HTWG Konstanz begin constructing their house for Solar Decathlon Europe 2012
© Team Ecolar, HTWG Konstanz

House construction according to the modular principle
© Team Ecolar, HTWG Konstanz

Visualisation of the Ecolar House
© Team Ecolar, HTWG Konstanz

Rain showers dampen critical construction phase

Last Wednesday, students at the Hochschule Konstanz University of Applied Sciences (HTWG) began constructing their innovative house. The "Ecolar" team from the City of Constance on the shores of Lake Constance are planning to enter their design in the "Solar Decathlon Europe 2012" international university competition, which is being held in September in Madrid. The modularly designed house is therefore being first of all constructed in Constance in order to test and optimise it in detail. However, the unsettled weather has already caused unwanted interruptions.

Everything needs to run smoothly because time is of the essence. In September the fully functioning house has to be standing on the competition site in Madrid. It is therefore a huge advantage that there are trained carpenters, joiners, electricians and draughtsmen among the students. However, the work on the building site is being held up every time there is a rain shower. The timber construction elements need to be protected from moisture. In contrast to the “Counter Entropy” team from Aachen, the Constance team has decided to build their house outside for test purposes – and not in a hall. That is the normal case in construction engineering and offers many advantages for this project. But with the unsettled June weather this year, the construction work on Lake Constance has become more like an obstacle race.

“The diverse and extensive work from the different specialist areas is now being brought together on seventy square metres. The theoretical considerations now need to prove themselves in practice – or spontaneous adaptations developed,” says Thomas Stark, Professor for Energy Efficient Construction at HTWG Konstanz. “With the construction of the first modules we have reached a further milestone and are now entering the critical final phase. The construction phase that has now been started will certainly be the most intensive one but also at the same time the most informative,” explains Stark, who is supervising the students from HTWG Konstanz on their journey to Madrid.

Modular unitized construction

“Ecolar” is an invented word from Lake Constance. It represents the synthesis of “ecology” and “modularity”, and also “economy” and “solar energy”. From the raw material extraction to the manufacture of the products, and from their processing to their disposal, the students from Constance have placed considerable emphasis on ecologically correct materials and processes. In addition the house is modularly designed. It can be extended or reduced in size as required – in increments of 4.30 metres. The facades can be inserted in the basic elements and can be opaque, translucent or transparent as required. That also provides flexibility during the usage phase, since the building can be relatively easily adapted or converted. Most components can be prefabricated with high precision according to industrial standards.

The house for Solar Decathlon Europe will consist of six main modules, whereby four are planned as internal spaces and two as exterior spaces. The facades to the patios are glazed and thus provide sufficient daylight. Two external walls are translucent and all the rest are opaque. Together with the roof they form the main energy generators, since the roof and the opaque facades are solar activated. Semi-transparent solar cells will be installed above the exterior spaces that filter sunlight and provide pleasant partial shading during the summer months. The solar power system will provide more than enough electricity so that surplus solar power can be used for other purposes or fed into the electricity grid. The Ecolar team has presented their building concept and all their innovative approaches in detail on their website.



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