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‘ripple’ – Team VIRTUe

Koeveld, Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands


Competition: Solar Decathlon Europe 2021-2022
Student team: Team VIRTUe
University: Eindhoven University of Technology
Surface area: 70 m2
Active area: 10 m2
Active panels: 12 pieces
Passive area: 60 m2
Passive panels: 50 pieces
Number of sizes: 46
Number of shapes: 46
Number of colors: 2
Total output: 1180 Wp
Color technology: ColorBlast®
Delivery date: September 2021
Completion date: October 2021
Phase: Delivered (Competition in June 2022)
PV manufacturer: Kameleon Solar
PV Thermal and mounting: AFS Solar
Mounting passive elements: Clacon Engineering
Glass and passive elements: Steinfort Glas

In a nutshell

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 2021/2022. Team VIRTUe, from the Eindhoven University of Technology, approached Kameleon Solar to manufacture their custom-made, colored solar façade and solar belt for 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. Instead of the hexagons used for most ColorBlast® colored PV modules, Team VIRTUe’s tesselation pattern is implemented in the printed pattern on the solar panels to create a homogeneous color.

VIRTUe is a multidisciplinary student team from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, comprised of 63 students from 16 nationalities. VIRTUe previously participated in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018 in Dubai and now takes on the Solar Decathlon Europe (SDE) 2021-2022. With a broad international background, VIRTUe is an enthusiastic team that blends professionality with a playful though down-to-earth approach to the project.

The Solar Decathlon is the largest building competition challenging university teams from all over the world to design, build and operate highly efficient, solar-powered, innovative homes. The houses are 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 is participating in the first urban edition of the Solar Decathlon along with 17 other teams in Wuppertal, Germany. The competition, postponed from September 2021 to June 2022 due to the pandemic, is expected to have around 200.000 visitors.

The motivation

VIRTUe is fully student-based and highly independent from the faculty institutions. A strong intrinsic motivation makes all members competitive and purposeful. The booming innovation hub they work in, Eindhoven, combined with the cultural variety of their background, inspires VIRTUe to strive for change. They introduce an innovation that involves people and their habits, as well as the built environment industry and its design process.

An essential element of VIRTUe’s approach is having a story as a central guideline. A story that is not simply about facts and figures, current issues, and solutions, but also about people and communities, with real problems and real emotions. They want everyone to get genuinely enthusiastic about the project at the Solar Decathlon and truly understand it, no matter their field of expertise. A less technical, more empathetic approach helps VIRTUe achieve this.

The challenge

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. Designers of buildings and cities, therefore, have the power to stimulate habits through careful design. Currently, we are 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 process. VIRTUe wants to break this destructive loop and introduce an integrated approach to sustainable building and living.

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.

The solution: ripple

Their concept is called ripple. Like a drop in the water, their project creates a ripple of influence by proposing a way of thinking rather than a fixed design. They want to create a ripple effect of change, of growing influence to amplify the impact of their project on urban environments. VIRTUe strives to activate people towards an environmentally friendly mindset with an attractive design adaptable to different situations. They believe that together we can make sustainable living fun and easy for everyone, everywhere.

They want 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 aims to spread sustainable change in existing situations with a renewed urban plan and a design proposal for vertical extensions, both of which are adaptable to various scenarios. They are currently using Wuppertal as an implementation situation.

ripple technologies

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.

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 finally, 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.

ripple aims to bridge the gap between energy consumption and energy production using the EQUI system and the coaching app RECAPP. In the common room, the smart display EQUI stimulates sharing appliances and matches the processes with the peak energy production, ensuring that electricity is distributed as cost-effectively as possible throughout the day. RECAPP encourages to achieve sustainable goals and share them with the network. It connects to systems in the house and facilities in the city to set sustainable goals and share them with friends through a social platform, spreading the sustainable lifestyle beyond city borders. This creates a healthy and attractive living environment for the residents and species of the city.

The 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, like other shared communal spaces, encourages eco-friendly activities to share ideas and resources. Moreover, the solar façade hosts a customized solar belt and a bird hotel for biodiversity.  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. In addition, the PVT (photovoltaic thermal) technology cools the solar panels, thereby making them more efficient, whilst also providing renewable energy in the form of heating water.

The solar panels’ design reproduces one of the modular units; the tessellation pattern is a critical element of the ripple concept. 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 in 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 in urban environments and spreading the sense of adventure in the city.

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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