The construction industry consumes large amounts of energy resources and produces tons of waste. At the Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22 university competition, students and researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are eager to demonstrate that the building sector is already compatible with a functioning circular economy. The task of the interdisciplinary “RoofKIT” team is to convert previously unused roofs of buildings into usable spaces. After a two-year planning phase, construction of the demonstration unit started at the Solar Campus competition site in Wuppertal on May 19, 2022.
How can living space be built under fair socio-economic conditions without destroying natural resources? How can the building sector be transformed so that it does not further exacerbate climate change? These and other questions are addressed by students and employees of various KIT departments in the “RoofKIT” team. “The city of today will be the resource for the city of tomorrow. This requires a new understanding of building,” says Professor Dirk Hebel, who heads the project together with Professor Andreas Wagner at the KIT Department of Architecture. “We need to rethink all design details to get our future buildings ready for such a transition.”
Pillars of Sustainability as the Basis
To demonstrate this new way of building, the team is creating a concept for the roof extension of Café ADA in Wuppertal as their contribution to the Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22 university competition. The design of the building is based on the three basic pillars of sustainability, i.e. environmental, economic, and social sustainability, to which RoofKIT has added aesthetic sustainability as the fourth pillar. The team’s concept introduces prefabricated wood modules that allow for a fast, inexpensive, and efficient construction process. For optimal space utilization, they use flexible floor plans and a “Sharing Economy” concept. Furthermore, the structure uses 100 percent renewable energy, including energy from solar panels on building surfaces and in the backyard. “We are developing a modular kit that can be applied anywhere, and we are also introducing new construction systems, materials, and energy generating systems,” explains Nadine Georgi, student of architecture at KIT and RoofKIT member. “We believe that new urban planning and architectural blueprints will enable us to realize a socially and at the same time economically, environmentally, and aesthetically sustainable future.”
Demonstration Unit at the Solar Campus
Since the end of March 2022, RoofKIT had been working in Reuthe, Austria, to build the demonstration unit, together with a carpentry and joinery company. The two-week set-up phase at the Solar Campus started with the official groundbreaking ceremony last Thursday. In the two-week event phase that follows now, the houses can be visited by interested individuals. Meanwhile, an international jury of experts will evaluate the overall concepts and demonstration units that have been submitted. The experts will select winning teams in ten categories such as sustainability, energetic performance, and innovation and finally determine the overall winner at the end of the event phase. Following the competition, the Solar Campus competition site in Wuppertal will be transformed into a “Living Lab” to pursue the research activities on selected houses. The RoofKIT team plans to bring its assembled building to Karlsruhe: “We would like to make our demonstration unit accessible to the public in Karlsruhe and show here as well that a long-term, sustainable solution for the building sector can already be realized today,” says Georgi.
About the Solar Decathlon Europe Competition
Initiated in 2002 by the United States Department of Energy, Solar Decathlon is a university competition for resource-saving and energy-efficient architecture and engineering in the building sector, which has also been held in a European version called Solar Decathlon Europe since 2008. In 2021/2022, Germany will host the competition for the first time, which will also focus on urban living and building for the first time. 18 university teams from eleven countries will put their visions of sustainable, energy-efficient, and socially acceptable architecture into practice. The project is sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).
Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,800 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.