University challenge — to build Europe's most energy efficient home

24 Nov 2009 10:41:00.000

PA 304/09

The University of Nottingham is to represent Britain in an international competition to design, build and test drive Europe’s most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient, zero carbon, solar-powered house.

A team of architecture and engineering students from the Department of the Built Environment are taking on 18 universities from across the world in the very first Solar Decathlon Europe which will be staged in Madrid between June 18 and 27 2010. 

Britain’s entry — ‘The Nottingham HOUSE’ — is a full scale highly marketable, zero carbon starter home. It will showcase the powerful combination of solar energy, energy efficiency, and the best in home design. Built in partnership with the construction materials company Saint-Gobain, it will demonstrate how low energy architecture can lend itself to the mass market. The L-shaped design is so versatile it can be worked in terraces, rows or stacked as apartments.


Click here for full story

‘The Nottingham HOUSE’ will be constructed on site at The University of Nottingham. After being flat-packed and transported by logistics partner DHL across Europe it will be re-assembled and connected to the Spanish national grid, along with the 18 other houses, on the banks of the River Manzanares at the historic gateway to Madrid.

Competing against teams from the USA, Brazil, China, Mexico, Germany, Finland, France and Spain the students will have to demonstrate the effectiveness and energy efficiency of their home in the best way possible — by living and entertaining guests in the house while it is on display to the public. The 10 day exhibition is expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors. 

Dr Mark Gillott, Co-Director of the Institute of Sustainable Energy Technology, said: “Plans by the Government to introduce a ‘clean energy cash back’ scheme means that households which contribute electricity to the National Grid through methods such as solar power are set to be rewarded with financial incentives, making buildings such as the Nottingham HOUSE a desirable option for developers and homeowners alike.

“Using a prefabricated design, our truly sustainable home will show how a small ‘starter’ home could be produced with the ability to sit side by side as part of a semi-detached house or terrace. This opportunity allows developers the potential for increased thermal performance and the ability to generate high densities in a master plan while still giving each family a private green space.”

Organised and supported by the Ministry of Housing of the Spanish Government together with the US Department of Energy The Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 is judged on 10 separate areas of expertise.

•    The architectural merit of their home
•    Industrialisation and market viability
•    Engineering and construction
•    Solar systems
•    Electrical energy balance
•    Comfort conditions
•    Communication and social awareness
•    Household functionality
•    Innovation
•    Sustainability

‘The Nottingham HOUSE’ has won the support of Nottingham based Michelin starred chef Sat Bains. Sat has a keen interest in environmental issues and has long championed the use of local suppliers and selected artisan producers. He will be advising the student team on devising a high profile dinner party in Madrid which will be attended by the Nottingham team’s neighbours — either Brazil or China.

Garden designer and RHS Chelsea Flower Show award winner Ian Dexter, from the Nottinghamshire based garden design and build company Lime Orchard, is working with the team on producing the external landscaped areas which will include areas for home grown organic food production.

Nina Hormazabal, president of the student committee, said: “Participation in the Solar Decathlon competition gives us a unique opportunity to put into practice the theoretical work we learn during our education at the University. This really is a fantastic educational experience for all those involved in the project.”

‘The Nottingham HOUSE’ will be unveiled to the public next March when it will be one of the key attractions at Ecobuild. The exhibition, between March 2-4 2010 at Earl’s Court in London, attracts over 35,000 visitors, is the world's biggest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment.

Mike Chaldecott, Chair of the Saint-Gobain Habitat Group and managing director of British Gypsum, said: “Meeting new homes targets while also achieving a reduction in carbon emissions will be a key challenge for the construction industry over the coming years. The Government has pledged an extra £1.5 billion to build an additional 20,000 affordable homes over the next two years and we see concepts such as the Nottingham HOUSE playing a key role in the delivery of sustainable communities.”
For more details go to

— Ends —

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

Saint-Gobain, a worldwide leader in the residential construction markets, designs, manufactures and distributes building materials. With EUR 43.8 billion of sales in 2008, Saint-Gobain is present in 59 countries. It employs over 18,000 people at 1,000 sites across the UK and Ireland which include British Gypsum, Saint-Gobain Isover, Saint-Gobain Glass, Weber, Saint-Gobain PAM, Ecophon and Solaglas.

Saint-Gobain was founded in 1665 to deliver a world first — the production of glass on an industrial scale — and has continued to grow its business via the ongoing development of new services, products and ways of working with customers. In February 2009 it was named as one of the Global 100 list of most sustainable corporations in the world.

The company invests over £350-million globally in R&D and employs 3,500 people worldwide at four main sites in Europe, North America and Asia, along with 11 research centres and around 100 development units. For more information on Saint-Gobain and its companies in the UK please visit

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Mark Gillott on +44 (0)115 846 7677,

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

Related articles

Building science bridges — with India

Published Date
Monday 16th November 2009

National energy saving conference comes to Nottingham

Published Date
Monday 5th November 2012

Research into carbon fibre recycling helps air industry go green

Published Date
Thursday 19th February 2009

Nomination for sustainable innovation

Published Date
Friday 7th November 2008

Blades of glory

Published Date
Wednesday 4th November 2009

Students encouraged to 'grow their own'

Published Date
Thursday 5th November 2009

Designs for life

Published Date
Monday 11th May 2009

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798