What is the Solar Decathlon?

The Solar Decathlon Europe is an international competition for universities from all over the world; the aim is to advance knowledge on industrialised and sustainable homes, with a particular emphasis on high efficiency and energy self-sufficiency.

The final phase of the competition will be held in Madrid in June 2010, and will consist of the assembly and exhibition of 20 houses designed and built by the different participating universities from the USA, Brazil, China, Mexico, Germany, UK, Finland, France and Spain. The houses, which will be grid connected, will undergo 10 contests, hence Decathlon, as in the Olympic competition.

Working alongside industry, students will be challenged to use their dynamism and capacity for innovation to design and build a self-sufficient house powered by the sun, and achieve a balance between the architecture and engineering aspects.

How we use Twitter

How we use Twitter

The Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Communications Team came up with the brilliant idea of creating three personas that integrated media with the construction side of the project.

These characters took their lead from the colours Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. logo and became our unique method of publicising the house in addition to the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E.
Mr Blue

A well-educated individual in the construction industry, who is keen to keep up to date with the structural side of the project. A perfectionist, he is apprehensive about leaving his new house in the hands of students, but trusts the expertise of their tutors and of course Dave the legendary forklift driver. Follow his tweets.
Ms Green

Mr Blue’s wife, who has chosen to keep her own name because of her views on sexual equality. Her bohemian way of life means she’s most interested in the environmental elements of the house – what insulation is being used, when the solar panels are installed etc. Mostly, she wants to know what the house can do for her child’s future. Follow her tweets.
Master Orange

He doesn’t care how it works, he just wants to see it up! He’s keen to move into his new house, on a street of the same houses where he can play with friends. Every new element that goes in the house is a step towards his new home – he’s always optimistic! Follow the wee man’s tweets.

Initial Design Process

Initial Design Process

The Design was brought about through an architectural diploma studio at the Department of the Built Environment which focussed on Zero Carbon housing. Groups of 5th year architecture students and Masters students were asked to produce designs for a house which could compete in the Solar Decathlon Europe competition, but would also form part of a sustainable master plan in a deprived area of Nottingham.

Initial Diploma Team:

Initial Progress

The initial scale model as presented at Ecobuild 2009

Once the winning design had been selected the groups all came together with all of the students providing their own expertise and strengths to refine the design. At the same time we refined the design through consultation with industry partners who provided technical advice on products which would meet our ethos of sustainability, economy and innovation.

The student design team of the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. (and equally the faculty and industry consultants) have a wide range of expertise, and have been coordinated by architecture staff to ensure that technologies and materials are not used just for innovation’s sake.

Once the design had been progressed to a suitable stage a second year unit of around thirty architecture students, combined with around fifteen MEng Students was enlisted to provide the labour for the project, as well as work on a number of elements of design and communications. The students in the unit volunteered knowing that they would build the house with the aim of presenting it in Madrid in June 2010.

Dr Mark Gillott
Project Director

Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Awards

The Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. has been on a tremendous journey through its development and construction. This page is to show some of the awards and commendations the project has received along the way.

Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Awarded Top Ecobuild Award

The Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. team have been awarded top prize in the inaugural Timber at Ecobuild Awards. The award is given in recognition of our exhibit, with the help of Saint-Gobain, promoting timber as a sustainable choice for construction

Nottingham H.O.U.S.E.

Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Shortlisted for Construction Award at Sustain Magazine Awards Dinner 2010.

Through doing this we hope to demonstrate how a home could provide its own energy in a real life scenario, and show that market viability is key to making sustainable housing a reality.

The Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. team were shortlisted for the Sustain Magazine 2010 Construction Award. Sustain Magazine concerns sustainability, business and the build environment.
Sustain Magazine Awards Dinner 2010


The competition is organised and supported by the Ministry of Housing of the Spanish Government together with the U.S. Department of Energy. The Solar Decathlon Competition has four main purposes:

  • To educate the student participants about the many benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency in building, and to challenge the students to think in new ways about energy and how it impacts on our everyday lives.
  • To raise awareness among the general public about renewable energy and energy efficiency and what technologies are available today to help them reduce their energy consumption. The Solar Decathlon is open to the public on certain days where visitors can see these technologies in action. The event serves to encourage all of us to act responsibly when making energy choices. Once you’re done discussing matters of sustainable energy, you can unwind by playing online slots in the comfort of your home.
  • To help move solar energy technologies into the marketplace faster, taking advantage of the interest of the students in research and development into energy efficiency and energy production technologies.
  • To demonstrate that it is possible to build highly efficient industrialised homes that are sustainable without abandoning comfort, aesthetics and the pleasure of living in them.

The Nottingham House

The University of Nottingham’s School of the Built Environment are one of the twenty finalist teams competing in the event. Working with Saint-Gobain the Nottingham House will deliver a zero carbon sustainable design solution that will also be applicable to the UK context — a code for Sustainable Homes compliant Zero Carbon Home that works as a terrace or semi-detached form.

Summary of the Design Brief

Design a building with a maximum footprint of 74m2, providing a minimum conditioned area (maintain a temperature between 22 and 24ºC and RH between 40 and 55%) of 42m2. The building may be grid connected but must supply at least as much energy from solar (PV and solar thermal) as it consumes. The house will be reassembled on its return to Nottingham and needs to function effectively in the UK climate.

Ecobuild 2010

Ecobuild is the world’s biggest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment.

Almost 35,000 visitors attended Ecobuild 2009, including some of the most influential organisations and individuals responsible for some of the most valuable construction projects across the UK and beyond.
Outside Ecobuild 2009

Ecobuild 2009
View From Outside Ecobuild 2009

The Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. team have undertaken a dedicated and concerted effort to get the house ready enough for its debut presentation at Ecobuild, far earlier than our final aim of the Solar Decathlon Europe competition.

At Ecobuild 2010 we aim to showcase our energy efficient, zero carbon solar powered home as one of the key attractions of the event.
Check this page regularly for updates as the Ecobuild 2010 exhibition gets underway from Tuesday 2nd to Thursday 4th March.

Media Partner

Media Partner: Philip Campbell

Philip Campbell is working closely with the Communications Team of the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. project at the University of Nottingham to help them take full advatage of the power of social media.

  • Facebook Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Fan Page

With over 1000 fans, our Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Fan Page is a key media connection to the project allowing people to communicate, discuss and browse pictures of the project.

  • Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. YouTube Channel

The dedicated YouTube video page for the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. is ever growing as we collect and produce more media about the house.

View the video on display from Ecobuild. Visit the channel.



The Design Narrative

A truly sustainable home is not just one that looks after its own energy consumption, but one which aids the creation of a dense urban fabric. As such we decided that the appropriate response to the Madrid 2010 brief was to show how a small family “starter” home could be produced; one with the ability to sit side by side with the next family home as part of a terrace.

Solar energy is the way to go if we are to sustain our ecosystem. You can even use it to power your computer and play your favorite games at an online casino.

We believe a family house should be acoustically and visually permeable in its public areas to support family life; circulation space should be made into interesting and useful spaces, which form a key part of the house plan rather than just a link.

Media Links

Media Partner: Saint-Gobain

Saint-Gobain is working in conjunction with the students at Nottingham University to create a home that will meet both Code Level 6 of the code for sustainable homes and PassiveHaus standards and that is eco-friendly and affordable – an industry first for the UK.

Media Partner: Architects Journal

The Architects Journal has teamed up with Saint-Gobain to record the construction of the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. for the Solar Decathalon Europe 2010 competition, first at the University of Nottingham and now at Ecobuild.
Nottingham H.O.U.S.E.Nottingham H.O.U.S.E.
Ecobuild 2010 Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Brochure

An interactive flick-through version of the brochure is coming soon.

Fow now, download the Ecobuild 2010 Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. Brochure presented at the Earls Court exhibition as a pdf here (PDF 1.89mb).