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Solar Decathlon: A sneak peek at the houses

Sept. 9, 2011, 7:07 a.m.
Ghent University, E-Cube

Photo: DOE

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Ghent University, E-Cube

The 2011 Solar Decathlon's only European entrant (apparently, the competition's big winner from 2007 and 2009, Team Germany, decided to take a break and let someone else bask in the glory of coming in first) is Team Belgium's stripped-down showstopper, the E-Cube. Designed as an affordable, build-it-yourself home — Team Belgium claims that no special skills or tools are needed to assemble the home, although we're guessing it's a bit more involved than putting together an IKEA bedroom set — the E-Cube is all about simplicity. Designed to meet Passive House standards and boasting an expandable floor plan, all of the home's technical bells and whistles are contained in a small compartment; even the solar array is hidden away on the flat roof, out of sight (but certainly not out of mind). And we can certainly get behind Team Belgium's principle of "human energy" that encourages "people to build their own house so they get less dependent on financial institutions."