ready, steady, go… urban!

Ten years after the first European edition, the Solar Decathlon Europe is getting ready to showcase, once again, the cutting edge of sustainable, energy-efficient and socially responsible habitats. This time, the SDE will take place in the city of Wuppertal, in the heart of Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia. Designated by and stewarded by SDE legacy experts at the Energy Endeavour Foundation, the SDE21 edition (postponed to 2022) will focus on raising the bar for a future-proof built environment.

Uniting students, researchers and professionals from eleven countries, the SDE21 Competition will feature eighteen Teams engaged in the development of the ultimate urban dwelling. Their challenge is to research, design, build, and operate carbon-neutral solutions for the city of tomorrow by addressing key topics such as the revitalisation of urban areas, densification, urban mobility, renovation, and the adaptation of building stocks. Through the examples of three urban situations extracted from the host city of Wuppertal, the Teams will gain an opportunity to pursue solutions that can be applied locally, as well as in cities all over the world. The three proposed situations are as follows:

1_ Renovation & Extension;

2_ Closing Gap;

3_ Renovation & Addition of Storey.

urban situations [1]

In addition to these three particular situations highlighted within the Mirke district of Wuppertal, the participating Teams can explore other neighbourhoods and propose solutions to challenges arising in their own communities. In the coming months, Teams will blend innovative ideas with a good dose of creativity, and take on the design challenge, the first key component of the SDE21 journey. This includes the crafting of a thorough project manual, where all aspects of the Teams’ designs are described. Teams will also organise and promote awareness activities as they prepare for that final step: the ultimate SDE singular experience of building a full-scale and fully functioning prototype, alongside all the other Teams during the assembly phase in Wuppertal.

overview of the SDE21 (in 22) Competition [2]

The SDE21 edition puts the Decathletes to the test in the 10 following contests:

  • Architecture;
  • Engineering & Construction;
  • Energy Performance;
  • Affordability & Viability;
  • Communication, Education & Social Awareness;
  • Sustainability;
  • Comfort;
  • House Functioning;
  • Urban Mobility;
  • Innovation.

The Energy Endeavour Foundation is ramping up with a series of articles to celebrate the Teams’ initiatives and objectives. Providing a glimpse of an urban society living in an energy-efficient environment, with beautiful ideas and exciting proposals, the SDE21 Decathletes draw their inspiration from different sources, with a common purpose: to expand the impact of climate-neutral decisions. Based on the initial chapter of work as communicated by Teams in their press releases and project websites, the first series will contain three articles. Through these articles, we will accompany the Teams as they progress on their journey to the SDE21 Competition event. The articles will portray the Teams through the particularities of their projects. These include the consideration for the neighbourhoods in their respective cities, and a focus on the preservation of traditional architecture and cultural heritage. The Teams’ ingenuity will be profiled as they consider neighbourhood development from an energy-oriented point of view, while addressing topics such as local materials, processes of reuse and recycling, and the exploration of innovation in equipment, materials and construction. In addition, we will see how Teams encourage the exchange of common values within communities, creating and fostering a spirit of resource responsibility through education and collective implication.

The upcoming exposés will reveal the commonalities that SDE21 Teams are sharing through their themes and key characteristics. This will provide a rich and deepened lens through which we can learn from the over-arching theme of the SDE21: “going urban”.

Two continents, eleven countries, and eighteen Teams have joined this extraordinary expedition toward Wuppertal. Stay tuned: the upcoming months will reveal the quests of these outstanding young ambassadors for energy-literacy, the future researchers and professionals in sustainable and energy-efficient habitats. Join us as we champion this next generation of doers and makers while they shape our cities of tomorrow.

Authors: Alexandra Ene, Francesco Longo, SDE19 alumni & EEF project development officers.


[1] Urban situations defined document – Call for Teams: Addendum A v. 2_sde21
[2] Call for Teams document – v. 2_ sde21

Energy Endeavour Foundation – 31 August 2020