UPC students present TO, the sustainable home that is competing in the 2019 Solar Decathlon Europe in Hungary

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Part of the TO team that will compete in the 2019 Solar Decathlon Europe

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ETSAV's director Albert Cuchí, at the presentation of the sostenible home

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The inside of the sostenible home 'TO'

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The inside of the sostenible home 'TO'

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The TO team building their sustainable home

The new sustainable home TO, which is competing in the 2019 Solar Decathlon Europe, was presented on 14 June at noon. It was conceived by a team of 35 students from the UPC Vallès School of Architecture (ETSAV) and three from the UPC Barcelona East School of Engineering (EEBE), one of the three Spanish teams—the only one from Catalonia—that will take part.

Jul 22, 2019

The sustainable home TO, presented on 14 June at noon, at the Vallès School of Architecture (ETSAV) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) is participating in the fourth edition of the Solar Decathlon Europe (SDE19) competition, which takes place from 28 June to 29 July in Szentendre, Hungary.

The competition is divided into two phases: the assembly, from 28 June to 13 July, and the exhibition, from 14 to 29 July. The ETSAV was selected to participate for the fourth time in a row, having previously represented the UPC with the proposals LOW, ECO and RESSÒ. It is the only school in the world to have reached such a milestone.

After its presentation, the prototype was disassembled and sent to Hungary for the international university competition. The TO team is competing in the SDE19 against 11 teams, made up of students from 29 universities, 4 continents and 9 countries. The UPC team is the only Catalan team and one of the three Spanish teams. The other two are the Universitat Politècnica de València team, which is presenting Azalea, and the University of Seville team, which is participating with Aura.

With the TO project, this team of students from the ETSAV and the EEBE has managed to break the hierarchy of rooms as we know it today: this home has no kitchen, toilet or living room; instead the rooms can be arranged for the comfort of its dwellers. Depending on the climatic circumstances, for example, they can be adapted to better manage the conditions of the interior space and minimise energy consumption, by showering or sleeping in the warmer south-facing side in winter or by doing so in the north-facing side in summer.

It is therefore a construction that, in addition to providing more sustainable management, puts into practice new everyday habits that are more energy-efficient and have a lower environmental impact.

An ecosystemic approach
The project aims to trigger an ecosystemic change by proposing a space or dwelling that is structured according to a new logic of use and consumption, new habits and new ways of interacting with and inhabiting a space that is still comfortable but also dynamic and adaptable at all times. In addition, it helps its dwellers to be more sustainable by displaying the course natural resources take inside the housing unit and by turning waste into a new resource, which closes the metabolic cycle.

To give the home its ecosystem approach, the prototype rests on three main pillars. 

  • Two service walls on the east and west facades display the use of natural resources and their management. One is for the water cycle and the other for organic matter, so that the inhabitants can choose the type of water they want to use each time.      

  • The north and south sides of the construction are multipurpose spaces with different environmental conditions. Comfort is achieved through filters that are used to adjust temperature, humidity, solar protection and air circulation.

  • A central space achieves comfort all the year round with minimal aid from active systems. This space can host large groups of people and is a shared and collective space that is the centre of indoor activities.

The University is currently working with the Barcelona City Council so that, once the competition is over, the prototype can be exhibited at the EEBE from November onwards and subsequently used as local public facilities. It could also be used to host student teams or research groups.

An interdisciplinary contest

The Solar Decathlon (SD) competition is an international university contest promoted by the United States Department of Energy that was first held in 2002 in Washington DC. The SD is a collegiate competition that challenges teams to design and build sustainable houses powered by renewable energy. The context of this study and the research of the limits of sustainability and efficiency are the main pillars of architecture, engineering and construction. The first European edition of the contest was held in Madrid in 2010. Since then, four European editions of the competition have been called.

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