Well folks, as they’d say — or maybe not — in the beautiful host country of the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe: ¡Eso es un wrap!
At the closing ceremonies this past Saturday at Madrid’s Villa Solar, awards were bestowed to the 18 collegiate teams that took top honors in the international — predominately Euro but not exclusively so — solar home design/build competition. Taking the lead last week after scoring first in the architecture contest and placing second in several other crucial contests including communications/awareness and market viability, Team Rhône-Alpes from Ecole National Supérieure d'architecture de Grenoble emerged triumphant with a total score of 908. 
Topped with a 10.7kW solar array and boasting a gaggle of other sustainable features, the team’s forward-thinking entry, Canopea, is actually part of a much larger vision of vertically grouped modular homes dubbed “nanotowers.” Stacked like building blocks and oriented around lush vertical farms and a “system of mutualized external passageways,” the Canopea concept — inspired, of course, by sunlight-absorbing, rainwater-catching tree canopies — is a direct response to the dwindling amount of housing space in densely populated urban areas around France, particularly Grenoble. In addition to placing first in the architecture contest, the home also came out on top in the innovation, house functioning and comfort conditions contests. Mighty impressive.
There’s a bit lost in translation but you can read about the full concept of Canopea here. I should also point out that this is Team Rhône-Alpes' second SD Europe showing — the school scored fourth in the inaugural 2010 event.

Coming in second place with a score of 897 was Patio 2.12 from Team Andalucía, a fierce contender comprised of students from four different Spanish universities. Not only did Patio 2.12 — a versatile beauty made up of four prefab modules arranged around a central courtyard — score first in the communications/awareness, energy balance, and energy-efficiency contests, but it also walked away with the coveted Public Choice Award having garnered the most votes from visitors to Villa Solar. Another Spanish contender, the Basque EHU Team, garnered the most online votes for Ekihouse. That home ultimately placed 12th overall despite an aggressive online voting campaign.

Third place (863 points) went to another courtyard-centric abode, Med in Italy. Designed and built by a team composed of students from two Roman universities, the self-described "Sustainable Mediterranean House" placed first in the sustainability contest.
Two teams from Germany, a country that placed second and third at the 2010 installment of SD Europe (in a huge upset, Virginia Tech won by a single point), placed fourth and fifth this year: ECOLAR from the University of Applied Sciences Constance (835 points; first place in market viability and engineering/construction) and Counter Entropy House from RWTH Aachen University (819 points; second place in architecture).
Perhaps the most conventional-looking of all the homes assembled at Villa Solar, Romania's Casa PRISPA, fared well in the energy-related contests but, not surprisingly, tanked in the innovation and architecture categories. That team secured ninth place overall, slightly beating out FOLD from the Techincal University of Denmark. You can take a look at the complete final scoreboard below.

A hearty ¡felicidades! to all 18 teams that duked it out during the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe and safe travels back home. It's also worth recognizing the hard work put in by the teams that withdrew from the competition in the final weeks. Given that it's a biannual affair, SD Europe won’t return until 2014 and won't be held in Madrid as usual. That new location is, drum roll please … Versailles, France. (Already, the new locale, made official this past spring with the signing of a European Memoranda of Understanding has managed to drum up a bit of controversy).

After 10 different cities submitted bids, the very first Solar Decathlon China will take place next August in the ancient, coal-mining — read: extremely polluted but improving — city of Datong in the Shanxi province. The competing teams hail from a super-diverse array of countries including Malaysia, Turkey, Australia, Singapore, Sweden, Egypt and a couple of intriguing China-U.S. mash-up teams. Both Iran and Israel are also on the official roster as of now. That should be interesting. 
 Team Rhône-Alpes is obviously super jazzed to win the Solar Decathlon Europe. Vive le France!

Following the inaugural Solar Decathlon China, the U.S. Solar Decathlon will return during the first weeks of October 2013 at its new homeOrange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. The fifth installment of the U.S. Solar Decathlon — once the Solar Decathlon — includes a few repeat contenders from past competitions as well as some new SD blood hailing from Las Vegas all the way to Vienna. And I don’t mean Vienna, Va. Click here to meet all the 2013 teams.

Although I was regrettably unable to magically transport myself to Madrid for SD Europe 2012, I hope to report live from the 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon as I have when the event was held in Washington, D.C. (I'm so turning it into a Decathlon/Disneyland combo trip). And as for China, I’m accepting all invitations as I hear Datong is quite enchanting in August …
A glimpse inside the winning home, Canopea. 
Courtyard heaven at second place and people's choice winner, Patio 2.12 from Team Andalucía.
Purple-armed couches and massive fishes inside of third place winner, Med in Italy.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

2012 Solar Decathlon Europe: And the winner is ...
Canopea, an innovate, self-sustaining housing concept from France's Team Rhône-Alpes, cleans up at the 2012 edition of the Solar Decathlon Europe in Madrid.