The power of light

Virginia Tech's lumenHAUS incorporates a sustainable roof system

"Lumen" means "the power of light." In German, "haus" means both "home" and "house." Put the words together and you get lumenHAUS, Blacksburg, Va.-based Virginia Tech's winning entry into the first annual Solar Decathlon Europe competition, which was held in Madrid in June.

lumenHAUS, a student research project, is the pilot project of Virginia Tech's new Center for Design Research, which is housed in the School of Architecture + Design. lumenHAUS was designed and built by Virginia Tech architecture and engineering students with assistance from faculty advisers and industry partners. Inspired by Bauhaus architect Mies Van Der Rohe's glass pavilion-style Farnsworth House, the 800-square-foot moveable house is a zero-energy home completely powered by the sun.

Among many other sustainability features, the home includes north- and south-facing sliding glass walls that allow large amounts of natural light to enter the home; an indoor lighting system through which energy collected during the day is radiated back out at night through a low-energy, long-lasting light-emitting diode lighting system; and 45 grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) panels that adjust automat­ically to best capture the sun's energy in all seasons and weather conditions. lumenHAUS's white PVC roof membrane also helps decrease the amount of heat absorbed through the roof assembly.

Seventeen collegiate teams competed in the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe, which lasted nine days. The Solar Decathlon Europe is a complementary competition to and is modeled after the Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon, which is held biennially on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Winning the competition was the culmination of several years of work by about 150 students and faculty members.