RhOME Prefab House - Simple, Durable and Sustainable

Architectural Concept
Engineering and Construction
Project participants

Rhome (A Home for Rome) is a part of a program of the city planning to regenerate the neighborhood of the Tor Fiscale, replacing in particular illegal settlements with efficient and ecological prefab housing. On these recovered spaces a small communities with neat aesthetics must set up. The ground floor consists of a reinforced concrete seating on which rest the four floors in wood frame, for a total of 12 apartments. These are distributed around a central column housing the technical services for kitchens, bathrooms, ventilation, etc. The peculiarity of Rhome is to integrate solar panels on the roof and in facade. Photovoltaic modules are also integrated into removable details of the main windows. The design team presented in Versailles a prefab house (one apartment of 60 sqm) which representes a part of the last level of the building.

Photovoltaic modules covers a continuous strip from the slope of the roof to the foot of the facade, on the south facade of the prototype. The chosen technology is Solbian's flexible monocrystalline modules because of their light weight and good resistance to hostile conditions (salt water, shocks, etc.). The photovoltaic facade panel can be raised by 15° to be placed in the extension of the roof modules, in order to increase the productivity of the system.

The new urban standard

The world is called to solve the challenge of the balance between development and resource consumption, and this change is entrusted to the city, which must be able to change the way they manage population growth, energy use and administration of the territory. Lately, news reports have highlighted the critical issues related to the city that governs itself through methodologies related to a society that is no longer there. New technologies, the different way of living social relations, new utilities, require a new way of enjoying the city and its spaces.

Historically, social changes were associated with a crisis of the cities, which had to change their way of being planned and lived, in order to solve the problems. Currently many such solutions have been proposed and implemented among difficulties and successes, but they need to be empowered in order to ensure that the planning and direction of the future towns are based on these values. The RhOME project accepts the challenge and takes the opportunity to define and propose new planning standards, adapted to the needs of a modern, multi-ethnic and different society.

For example, the current legislation ensures that 18 square meters per person will be dedicated to urban standards; 2.5 square meters of these are for parking. To encourage mobility slow this standard is too high and also exacerbates the problems of overbuilding. The process then starts from reviewing the current data to which add new features, like the ability for everyone to have an internet connection, to have clean energy and to re-use what it produces and consumes. Currently we are focusing on quantifying those standards.

RE-USE – Why “One thing leads to another”

The smart city is facing an environmental and economic sustainable reform of production processes and resource management, in an environmental and economic direction. This revolution feeds on concepts such as integration, interdependence and the “closed loop“. There is no waste, but resources. Eco- products that can be processed, consumed, abandoned and refed into the production cycle in other forms, in the logic that “ one thing leads to another.”

At the base of the crisis of consumptions, there is a “linear” model production, high waste of energy and natural resources. The products resulting from these resources, at the end of their life cycle become waste. The high cost required for their disposal, resource scarcity and price volatility have undermined this system. One response to this difficulty comes from the realization of an “circular” economy, based on reuse and regeneration values.

In order to become innovation, it must be the result of a new conception of the production process of goods, as well as their design. The basic conception of this innovation process is the will to reduce the production of waste by re-inserting the components of a product in production cycles, thereby limiting the dependence on natural resources. The beneficiaries of the assets are no longer seen as consumers, but as users. This means that unless a product has to be changed for its reuse, faster will be its reinstatement in the process. Also it can be reused several times, and its potential savings will be higher. Product innovation starts then by the choice of materials, which must be environmentally friendly and reusable.

Canopea: Solar Energy Modular House with 10 kW Solar Panels

Floor plans
Multy-storey modular concept
Project participants

In September 2012, teams of students from 12 countries gathered at Villa Solar, an open public space in Madrid. They participated in Solar Decathlon, a competition to build prototypes of innovative energy-efficient homes. Each prototype had to be installed in 11 days on the site of Villa Solar and to respect a certain number of constraints, in particular:

  • living area 45 sqm - 70 sqm with a footprint of not more than 150 sqm;
  • integration of an autonomous energy system using solar energy with a maximum power of 10 kW (solar panels);
  • temperature permanently maintained between 23° C and 25° C.

This initiative, with a dual educational and scientific ambition, was started in the United States by the Department of Energy before being developed in Europe and China more recently. In Madrid, the various installations were rated according to 10 criteria, including architecture, comfort, economic viability and electrical balance of the structure. And it is the Canopea project, bringing together students from different schools in the Rhone-Alpes region supported by numerous public and private partners, who won this friendly competition.

The Rhone-Alpes team, carrying the award-winning Canopea project, has developed a concept of modular "home-towers", inspired by the canopy, the upper part of the forest that captures nearly 95% of solar energy. The modular buildings consist of up to 10 floors, each apartment ideally occupying a whole floor as a small house and enjoying a 360° view. Different modular "home-towers" are interconnected by external passageways to create meeting places without harming the need for privacy.

In Madrid, the solar energy modular house prototype presented simulated the last two floors of a modular "home-tower", an innovative tower of limited size and with a good "connection" to the networks, with an optimized energy system. This type of solar energy modular house is tested locally at two sites in Lyon as well as at the scientific campus in Grenoble as part of the GIANT program.

Fab Lab House: Prefab Design for CNC Machine + Flexible Solar Panels

Inside the house
Form follows energy
Project participants

“A solar house should be made from a solar material such as wood.”

Salvador Rueda, Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona

“Rather than making solar houses, we can create self-sufficient habitats that are able to produce energy, food and other goods.”

Vicente Guallart, IAAC

“The Fab Lab House is developed on a network of fabrication laboratories using CNC machines to design and produce houses that can be customizable by the inhabitants, and at the same time adaptable to the environmental conditions”

Neil Gershenfeld, Center for Bits and Atoms, MIT

The Fab Lab House won Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 people’s choice award. In Madrid more than 20,000 people, who interested in solar house design, have visited the most liked and popular solar house in Spain, designed and manufactured by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC).

Prince Felipe of Spain said it looked like a wooden boat but the spectacular prefab solar house produced by Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia was also called “peanut house” “cinnamon submarine,” “forest zeppelin” or “whale belly”.

The queues to visit the Fab Lab prefab house have greatly surprised the design team of the project: more than 20,000 visitors saw the solar prefab house during the ten days of Solar Decathlon Europe competition. The design team has been awarded with the people’s choice award. “This is a really important award for us – said Daniel Ibanez, Co-Director of the Fab Lab project – because compared to other solar houses we wanted to achieve a very human house. We wanted to make a house to live more than a technology showroom.”

However the Fab Lab house has also introduced significant innovations and state-of-the-art technologies such as the most efficient in the world flexible solar panels, designed and made with both American and Spanish technologies. This created a great interest among people and companies who visited the solar prefab house and it represents an important and significant breakthrough in the sustainable architecture and using of flexible solar panels in facades and roofs. “We wanted to overcome the idea that a solar house is a traditional house with solar panels on top and a lot of modern technology inside. Our project is a full solar house, a new generation of building that visitors have come to appreciate.” says the co-director of the Fab Lab project.

“The competition has been a great way to push the spirit of innovation in the field of architecture and construction in these times of crisis. We will propose that future editions will add tests where they value passive energy solutions in the design of buildings rather than the high consumption of energy to achieve comfort conditions. A solar house competition in Europe should overcome the American technical understanding, and bring values related to outdoor space and the social use of energy” says Vicente Guallart, Director of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia.

So far the solar prefab house has already attracted the interest of the media and the public. The Fab Lab house has been put up for sale from € 45,000 + VAT. Various possible house configurations are defined: Villa (96 +96 sqm), House (60 +60 sqm), Studio (36 sqm), Shelter (24 sqm) and Cottage (12 sqm).

The Fab Lab project, which involved experts, engineers and architects from 20 countries, is being developed by the worldwide network of Fab Labs, The Center for Bits and Atoms from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC). The project participants include following companies: Schneider Electric, Endesa, Visoren, Santa & Cole, Roca, Vincon and Nani Marquina.