“We are not designing a house for the future; we are designing so that our homes will make it there”. TU Delft
Last month we featured NEST a project aimed at improving the sustainability of new buildings. But what about the homes we live in now? Is it possible to preserve the comfort and character of older family homes, yet still enjoy the space and energy efficiency offered by modern housing?
It would seem that sustainable renovation is a viable option, as students of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) have developed Prêt-à-Loger, an innovative building concept for efficiently converting existing terraced houses into modern, energy-neutral homes.
The TU Delft team have focussed their attention on the 1.4 million poorly-insulated Dutch terraced properties, or Doorzonwoning, that were created during the post-World War II housing shortage. Rather than writing off these old buildings as outdated and inefficient, they have devised a way to make these much-loved family homes fully sustainable – by simply adding an eco-friendly ‘second skin’.
The solar-powered skin provides a new insulation layer, glass casing and sustainable technology to create a more attractive living space and make the homes energy-neutral. The TU Delft team have called it Prêt-à-Loger or Ready to be lived in because residents can continue to live there and enjoy their homes when the second skin is applied.
We believe that in the end it is all about finding a balance between what should be improved and what should be preserved: improving your house, preserving your home. Improving the climate and spatial performance of the house, while preserving the properties that make these houses into homes. TU Delft
Supported by the Dutch construction industry, TU Delft set about designing Prêt-à-Loger as the Dutch submission for the Solar Decathlon 2014 – the Olympic Games of sustainable building – which took place this summer in Versailles.
This award winning competition brings together universities from around the world to design and build sustainable energy-neutral homes. Each house must function independently for two weeks, using only solar energy. The entries are assessed on ten criteria, hence the name Decathlon. TU Delft was one of 20 universities to be selected, alongside the Lucerne University of Applied Arts and Sciences representing Switzerland with their Your+ solar house project.
In contrast to the usual futuristic pavilions, the TU Delft student team constructed a full-size copy of a 1960’s terraced house in Honselersdijk – an exact replica of the family home of one of the students.
The second skin was then achieved by applying an insulation layer on the northern side of the building and a smart glasshouse construction on the southern side, creating a heat buffer in the colder months and providing energy throughout the year.
This construction creates the additional living space. In winter, it serves as a glazed sun lounge in which residents can continue to enjoy the greenery, whereas in summer the whole construction unfolds to become part of the garden once again.
For the Solar Decathlon, the garden design was also sustainable, employing contemporary applications and design in combination with responsible use of materials. This included using locally sourced products that were as energy efficient and non-toxic as possible. In this way, the house and the garden formed a sustainable whole.
Ultimately, the TU Delft student team won first prize in the Solar Decathlon Sustainability Award category by successfully demonstrating that the sustainability of existing European buildings can be improved.
The team also won first prize in the Communication & Social Awareness category and second prize for Energy Efficiency and Construction Management and Health & Safety. Overall, the TU Delft team finished in third place, with just 3 points fewer than the winner.
The Prêt-à-Loger house has now been rebuilt in the Green Village, a TU Delft initiative to develop a vibrant living lab for sustainable innovations on the university campus. It was officially opened last week on 25 August by Stef Blok, the Dutch Minister of Housing and Civil Service, and can be viewed by the public for a limited period. TU Delft researchers will use the building as a test site for improving the indoor home environment and for the development of consumer products, systems and fittings within buildings and solar cells etc.
Following on from their success at the Solar Decathlon, the student team and researchers involved are currently working with project partners to explore how the Prêt-à-Loger concept can be applied on a large scale. If it is adopted by the construction industry, it could offer comfortable, eco-friendly and sustainable living that satisfies the needs of different generations; not just in the Netherlands, but also in the UK and Germany where there is also a high volume of poorly-insulated post-war housing.
We offer our congratulations to the TU Delft team on their success at the Solar Decathlon 2014. To find out more about the Prêt-à-Loger sustainable renovation project, please explore the links below.
- Visit the Prêt-à-Loger website >
- Follow Prêt-à-Loger on Facebook >
- Prêt-à-Loger on Twitter >
- TU Delft website >
- Solar Decathlon website >
Image credits: Prêt-à-Loger, Solar Decathlon Europe
The Prêt-à-Loger sustainable building project features in the August 2014 edition of Rhine Capital Partners monthly investment updates.
- On 21st August 2014