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‘ripple’ – Team VIRTUe

Living LAB 040, Eindhoven, the Netherlands


Competition: Solar Decathlon Europe 2021-2022
Student team: Team VIRTUe
University: Eindhoven University of Technology
Prizes: 1st place House Functioning; 2nd place Urban Mobility; 3rd place Sustainability; 3rd place Communication, Education, and Social Awareness.
Out of competition awards: 1st place Solar Award; 1st place Mirke Choice award; 1st place German Sustainable Housing award; 2nd place Green BIM award; 2nd place Human Centered Interior Architecture award.
Result: 2nd place
Surface area: 70 m2
Active area: 10 m2
Active panels: 12 pieces
Passive area: 60 m2
Passive panels: 50 pieces
Number of sizes and shapes: 46
Number of colors: 2
Total output: 1180 Wp
Color technology: ColorBlast®
Delivery date: September 2021
Completion date: Demonstration Unit opening October 2021 - Final competition June 2022
Phase: Completed
PV manufacturer: Kameleon Solar
PV Thermal and mounting: AFS Solar
Mounting passive elements: Clacon Engineering
Glass and passive elements: Steinfort Glas

In a nutshell

Team VIRTUe, from the Eindhoven University of Technology, approached Kameleon Solar to manufacture their custom-made, colored solar façade and solar belt for ripple, their concept of the house of the future. The panels have been smartly designed, suiting both customization and mass production (mass-customization) as the cell matrix in the panels has been standardized while the angle of the diagonal edges can still be customized. According to the jury, VIRTUe presented a “convincing concept of prefabrication and scaling“.

Instead of the hexagons used for most ColorBlast® colored PV modules, Team VIRTUe’s tessellation pattern is represented in the design printed on the solar panels. The tessellated pattern creates a homogeneous color thanks to Kameleon Solar’s in-house design translation and color-matching software.

VIRTUe at the Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22

The ripple Demonstration Unit (RDU) is, as the name suggests, a concept prototype of Team VIRTUe’s ripple and their entry for the Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22. VIRTUe’s building task was the refurbishment and addition of a storey to Café Ada in Wuppertal. VIRTUe wants to inspire sustainable behavior by bringing people together and creating a ripple of change, and they translated this vision into the house they designed and built.

VIRTUe is a multidisciplinary student team from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, comprised of 63 students from 16 nationalities. With a broad international background, VIRTUe is an enthusiastic team that blends professionality with a playful, down-to-earth approach to the project. A strong intrinsic motivation makes all members competitive and purposeful.

VIRTUe won 2nd prize in the Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22 in Wuppertal (Germany), besides many out-of-competition awards such as the prestigious Solar Award, which recognizes the most effective technical integration of a replicable on-site solar application that reduces the CO2 emissions for heating and cooling a building. Team VIRTUe presented “the most innovative and impactful solar panel integration concept of the competition according to International Solar Energy Society ISES and SHC TCP – IEA Technology Cooperation Programme on Solar Heating and Cooling.

The Solar Decathlon is the largest building construction competition and challenges university teams from all over the world to design, build and operate highly efficient, solar-powered, innovative homes. The houses are equipped with advanced technologies and designed to the highest sustainability standards. The houses are built in two weeks, run, demonstrated to the public, and evaluated by a jury on a campus of exposition and interaction. The competition involves a broad scope of expertise by challenging teams on ten contests- recalling the deca (ten) games of the Olympic decathlon.

VIRTUe participated in the first urban edition of the Solar Decathlon Europe along with 15 other international student teams and organized visiting days such as the Netherlands Day. The competition, postponed from September 2021 to June 2022 due to the pandemic, had a record number of 115.000 visitors.

Beautiful solar façade and customized solar ‘belt’

The innovative color-matching technology of ColorBlast® and the custom-made shapes and sizes of PV modules allowed the solar panels to integrate perfectly with the wooden structure for an aesthetic result. Furthermore, the solar panels’ custom-made tessellated design reproduces one of the modular units. In addition, the PVT (photovoltaic thermal) technology cools the solar panels, thereby making them more efficient, whilst also saving energy by preheating the water for the heat pump.

The customized solar belt (the upper edge of the house) is integrated into the design of the façade and can get sunlight throughout the day. The attractive solar façade allows using the green roof for greenery, which encourages eco-friendly activities to share ideas and resources like other shared communal spaces.

It all started with the ambition to create solar panels that actually add something to the appearance of a building by integrating them into the façade and thereby making room on the roof for biodiversity and greenery. I am very happy that I have come across the best partner Kameleon Solar which has offered us all the possibilities in the design of the color pattern and the shape of the panels.Erwin Ketelaars, VIRTUe

Take a VIRTUal tour of ripple!

ripple: modularity – tessellation – smart technologies

Their concept is called ripple. Like a drop in the water, VIRTUe’s project creates a ripple of positive influence by proposing a way of thinking rather than a fixed design. They want to create a ripple effect of change, a wave of growing influence that amplifies the impact of their project on urban environments.

The ripple concept is translated into a life-size ripple Demonstration Unit (RDU), designed in layers to maximize adaptivity. A single modular unit based on a shared living model can be multiplied on existing buildings to renovate and extend them in order to create a growing network of communities living sustainably. VIRTUe’s urban concept is represented through collective solutions, such as urban farming, shared mobility, and public spaces with shared facilities. ‘ripple’ is a new-build prefabricated home that can be placed on top of existing homes, making it part of the solution to the housing shortage in urban areas. VIRTUe aims to spread sustainable change in renewing urban plans with modular residential blocks as vertical extensions adaptable to various scenarios, making clever use of the available roof space in cities.

VIRTUe strives to activate people towards an environmentally friendly mindset with an attractive design adaptable to different situations. The house is divided into a student room, a starter’s apartment, and a communal area with shared appliances, and can be easily turned into a single apartment. VIRTUe not only reduced CO2 emissions from building construction and maintenance operations, but also used bio-based and recycled materials. Hence, the building is almost entirely recyclable and can be completely disassembled into its parts. In addition, the team developed and realized a low-threshold interior concept for their sustainable house, focusing on low-impact living.

VIRTUe designs with the tessellation pattern, a critical element of the ripple concept. The tessellated shape allows for diversified buildings by rotating tessellation units while still being able to prefabricate them. The modular units have the shape of irregular polygons, making them look bigger and get better enlightened by daylight, for an outstanding result that creates bigger spaces for the communal areas. The identical angle-shaped polygons repeat on all the surfaces and fit like a puzzle. Moreover, the tessellation pattern facilitates the combination of prefabricated elements, though always providing a unique shape and look for indoor and outdoor apartment units. VIRTUe wants the tessellation pattern to inspire people to live a different experience in the apartment block to be creative by bringing novelty to urban environments and spreading the sense of adventure in the city.

The technical core is at the center of the house, an engine room that connects energy and water management systems with smart devices. The systems consist of the hot water system, powered by a solar boiler and modulating heat pump, slightly over-dimensioned ventilation to keep CO2 levels to a minimum, and the smart system. The residents use the latter to control the core containing all the installations, with gamified recommendations stimulating the sustainable mindset of the user.

The students focused on smart communities that make it fun and easy to adopt a sustainable lifestyle; that is why they developed EQUI-Librium and RecApp.
It’s easy to bridge the gap between energy consumption and energy production using the EQUI-Librium system, which is connected to the solar system and other devices in the house, forecasts and schedules the energy use. For example, in the common room, the smart interface EQUI stimulates sharing appliances and automatically matches the processes with the peak energy production, thus using the energy when it is best available and ensuring that electricity is distributed as cost-effectively as possible throughout the day.
The coaching app RecApp encourages achieving sustainable living habits and is accessible to everyone. The positive Recommendation Application developed by the students of Eindhoven is free to use! It personalizes a route with insights and tailored weekly challenges based on your individual starting point previously assessed with a questionnaire.

An integrated approach to sustainable building and living

Climate change is a complex subject requiring attention and effort on all levels. The built environment is a crucial player in reaching global sustainability goals. Therefore, designers of buildings and cities have the power to stimulate habits through careful design.
VIRTUe wants to tackle the energy transition in cities by bringing the novelty of an integrated solution and revolutionizing how people live in the urban environment, from the designing process to the way of living collectively, with innovative ways of building and living sustainably.

VIRTUe believes in the potential of human actions, where the issue should be tackled from both ends: the industry and the individual. With their integrated solution, they aim to activate people to adopt an environmentally-friendly mindset, normalize sustainable living, and future-proof the design approach of the built environment by promoting a communal and sustainable mindset in the building industry. They introduce innovations involving people and their habits, the built environment industry, and its design process.

According to VIRTUe, we are currently stuck in a status quo where the industry does not foster a sustainable mindset to its users, who in turn do not incentivize the industry to change the production processes. VIRTUe wants to break this destructive loop and introduce an integrated approach to sustainable building and living. Their mission is to future-proof the building sector and to make Low Impact Living attractive for everyone through the power of collaboration and social interactions. They believe that together we can make sustainable living fun and easy for everyone, everywhere.

After the competition in Wuppertal, they are currently using  Living LAB 040 as an implementation situation, where people will live in the RDU to validate its social viability and more innovations will be tested, thus continuing the ripple in the Netherlands.

PV Details

Type 1

Size: Various
Weight: ~22,5 kg per m2
Cells: 21 pieces (3 x 7) monocrystalline 6'' cells
Power: 84 Wp
Technology: ColorBlast®
Color: KSW G2225
Variations: Modules were standardized in width and cell matrix. Variations were made by changing the angle of the edge opposite the junction box. This allows for customization within standardization.

Type 2

Size: Various
Weight: ~22,5 kg per m2
Cells: 24 pieces (3×8) monocrystalline 6'' cells
Power: 96 Wp
Technology: ColorBlast®
Color: KSW G2225
Variations: Modules were standardized in width and cell matrix. Variations were made by changing the angle of the edge opposite the junction box. This allows for customization within standardization.

Type 3

Size: Various
Weight: ~22,5 kg per m2
Cells: 27 pieces (3×9) monocrystalline 6'' cells
Power: 108 Wp
Technology: ColorBlast®
Color: KSW G2225
Variations: Modules were standardized in width and cell matrix. Variations were made by changing the angle of the edge opposite the junction box. This allows for customization within standardization.


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