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Photo of Ghent University's E-Cube, under construction in Belgium. | Courtesy of the Ghent University Solar Decathlon Team

Photo of Ghent University's E-Cube, under construction in Belgium. | Courtesy of the Ghent University Solar Decathlon Team

In honor of the U.S  Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon -- which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive -- we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

Ghent University’s unique two-story home could be an international star at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition this year due to the Belgium team’s innovative, ultra-efficient, passive home design of the E-Cube.

E-Cube, named for its cube-like shape, features a very clean and compact boxy exterior, complimented by a very spacious interior for a family of four (including two children) with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and living areas. Ghent University founded the home on several basic principles focusing on modularity and Passive House standards, structural flexibility and affordability, which are evident in every part of the home.

An important aspect of the E-Cube is the simple Do-It-Yourself (DIY) modularity. The home is designed as a pre-engineered kit that can be easily constructed by communities without the need of specialty workers or help from outside financial institutions. The internal structure is a very basic industrial pallet racking system that keeps access and affordability in mind along with standard building codes. The E-Cube is very plug and play. Since the entire structure is built from a kit, hooking up the solar panels and other technical components requires no specific expertise. Check out the video below for a walkthrough of the building process.

Animated Video Walkthrough E-Cube - Team Belgium Ghent University from Team Belgium: Ghent University on Vimeo.

Ghent University’s home also meets Passive House standards with air-tight insulation, energy-efficient windows, and the ability to heat the E-Cube without a conventional heater. This design reduces costs and the amount of solar panels needed to power the home’s utilities. The house is also structurally flexible with wall panels that are adaptable and an expandable pallet racking system. Thus, E-Cube can be reconfigured, possibly to even add more space.

Most of all, the E-Cube is marketed as an attractively affordable option for a solar home, from every aspect. The entire pre-engineered, DIY design makes construction a low-cost, no brains effort. It can also be constructed at the owner’s pace and timeline in phases, making the capital investment minimal.  And the passive design and solar panels on the roof will eliminate heating and cooling costs altogether once completed. 

This is Ghent University’s first Solar Decathlon competition, and its completed design should be a competitive addition to 2011’s contest. If you’re interested in checking out its website, make sure the “EN” icon in the top right corner of your screen is chosen in order to translate the page into English. Feel free to check out the team's Facebook page and view more pictures on their Twitpic account.