VIRTUe grabs stunning second place at international construction competition

Eindhoven University of Technology

Student team VIRTUe secured the second place in Germany at the Solar Decathlon Europe, an international competition in which students from around the world search for sustainable ways of living. VIRTUe made a big splash in Wuppertal with Ripple, a self-designed concept that reduces the impact on the environment and consists of a self-sufficient and sustainable home, and a coaching app that playfully encourages people to live more economically.

Team VIRTUe succeeded in presenting a “convincing concept of prefabrication and scaling,” according to the jury. Different construction components and calculation tools were used for an optimal result, the jury judged. The win was for Roofkit (The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), the shared third place went to SUM from TU Delft.

All sixteen participating student teams from Europe and Asia had bet on a sustainable home, but VIRTUe went a step further through the recommendation app RecApp. The coaching app is available in Google’s app-store and encourages the user to live more sustainably. Through this app, the user receives a new challenge twice a week, based on his or her interests and current habits. For example, take shorter showers or give away old clothes.

VIRTUe went a step further than the rest via the app ReCapp. Photo: VIRTUe

The idea behind the app is simple: you can design a sustainable house, but what use is it if the residents do not live sustainably? According to VIRTUe, cities only become truly sustainable when the (construction) industry and the residents make a joint effort to do so. “That’s why we’re not only challenging the construction industry, but also the people who live in the houses,” clarifies VIRTUe team manager Guido van Laar.

Self-sufficient

The sustainable house itself is completely self-sufficient in energy and built with reusable materials such as wood. The building consists of a student room, a starter’s apartment and a communal area and can be relatively easily placed on top of existing buildings, making it part of the solution to the housing shortage in urban areas.

Colored solar panels are incorporated into the facade. This not only looks attractive, but creates more space on the roof for social activities. A smart system called EQUI can help users improve their sustainable lifestyle. EQUI ensures that electricity consumption is distributed as economically as possible throughout the day. For example, the system automatically schedules the best time to turn on the washing machine or run the dishwasher.

The interior of the house. Photo: VIRTUe

Proud

The team is happy and proud with the second place finish. In 2018, the team participated in the Solar Decathlon Middle East once. At the time, VIRTUe finished in a creditable sixth place in Dubai. “We wanted to create a ripple of influence with Ripple, like a drop in the water,” Van Laar explains the name. “We succeeded in doing that. The jury recognized that in addition to realizing a sustainable building, the habits of residents are hugely important.”

VIRTUe had more good news to share in Wuppertal, as the team also managed to secure two new partners, namely De Volksbank and Living LAB 040. The team will break down the house after the competition, transport it to Eindhoven and put it up at Living LAB 040, a corporation that tries out and wants to improve innovative housing concepts. This gives the partners of VIRTUe the opportunity to further develop and test the innovations in the house. Van Laar: “This allows us to continue to make an impact in the future.”

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