Mesmerizing House with a Solar Skin


Team Germany took first prize at Solar Decathlon 2007, and they’re moving up in the rankings this year.  After the architectural competition, the team is now solidly in second place with a few more days to go.  Could the cube with a solar facade bring last year’s victor its second consecutive win?  In 2007, Team Germany had a beautiful home covered in oak louvered frames with integrated photovoltaics.  This year, the team of 24 architects and students has furthered the same theme with 40 single-crystal silicon panels on the roof and roughly 250 thin-film CIGS panels on the sides.

Technische Universität Darmstadt calls this the surPLUShome, and I think you’ll agree that it has a lot of pluses, or positives (not to mention the exterior facade, which is ridiculously mesmerizing).  The 11.1 kW photovoltaic system is expected to produce a monstrous 200% of the energy needed by the house.  This kind of production takes positive energy to a whole new level.

Inside the surPLUShome, there’s a great room with a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and a loft space upstairs.  The space is flexible and open — just perfect for giving meaning to every inch.  Feel free to learn more about the surPLUShome:

[+] Technische Universität Darmstadt SurPLUShome.






Photo credits: Thomas Ott (top); DOE (rest).

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  • Anonymous

    Very cool. I love the open interior. I wonder about the durability of the exterior in certain parts of the country that see high winds, though…. But so many of the designs were regional in nature, maybe this one was also.

  • theauthor

    Aesthetically it’s interesting, but solar PV production efficiency drops substantially (around 2%) for every 10 degrees of angle off from optimal angle a panel is placed. Seeing as integrated PV (particularly copper indium gallium selenide panels) is even less efficient than a typical panel (~10%) and the angle of the walls is 90 degrees, many of these ‘solar skin’ panels will be doing nothing for most of the day.

    I realize the capacity is there for a 11.1 kW system, but given the angles of the solar skins, shading, and low-efficiency; it’s not going to come anywhere close to producing the amount of power that it could. Peak solar production is from 10am-3pm. The only times this CIGS skin will be exposed relatively optimal angles of sun is at sunrise and sunset. Even then, half of the panels will be in shadow. We installed a two 4 kw panel system on two townhomes once and the efficiency of one system was 30% less than the other all because one panel was partially shaded by a 6″ roof vent shadow for an hour a day in early Spring. That’s how much solar is affected by any shading as panels act as a unified chain. Reducing the efficiency of one panel reduces the output of the entire syste,. Just think of the shadowing and shading on this house.

    I like the idea of the house, and I suppose for the decathlon it’s effective for demonstration purposes, but in reality it’s completely impractical and cost-ineffective to skin an entire house on all 4 sides with integrated PV in order to produce power. It’s like using a thousand AA batteries instead of a car battery for your car; yeah it’ll work, but is it practical? Similarly, the money it takes to cover a house in CIGS skin could be spent on an automatically aligning PV array away from the house that would produce ten times as much real power or a geothermal system.

    Just angling the panels on the roof 26 degrees alone would have provided more than enough power for this structure.

  • Portland Real Estate

    Great looking place, and 200% energy is amazing! Just think if only 10 percent of the new houses we built did that. It would probably put an end to new coal fired power plants.


  • Armando AJ Elliott

    Should check out Team Germany 2005 house. They had exterior shades and put a solar cell on each individual shade. They then wrapped the whole house in this and made it motor driven so the shade actually tracks the sun and adjusts the panels likewise.

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