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.

Description from IAAC

The prototype is understood as a result of the negotiated consensus of the sum. More than a closed design, more than a description of an object, the prototype defined here is presented as a combination of a series of intentional strategies and the realisation of a series of affirmations that we intend to defend.

The first argument is based on a distinct industrialisation model. Set against the industrialisation of mass production, digital design techniques and the new technologies of personalised fabrication, CAD CAM and that which is closely linked to design and fabrication, we offer them vast possibilities of adaptation between real needs and specific answers. It is based on this point that we propose the international network of Fab Labs as a base of production for prototype development.

The second argument is based on the extended definition of technological efficiency. We intend to add to the concept of efficiency a factor of accessibility and apply these values to all the design categories of the prototype, from the structure to the finishes. We propose to measure, for example, the efficiency of a photo-sensitivity material not by its energy efficacy, but by the relation of its price, availability, complexity / technical opacity, possibilities of use, adaptation transformation assembly facility and maintenance – and its energy-collecting efficiency. Through this change of viewpoint, we intend to make the user an agent of participation and a transformer of the space they inhabit.

The third, the emergent logic of the component and distribution of intelligence. Set against the opposing sum of elements originating from different technical fields, set against the typical “box + panel”, we argue in favour of the distribution of intelligence. Each component of the prototype contains the same technical, energy and structural level, etc – as the rest. The logic, in its entirety, is found in each of the parts and not in its entirety.

Finally, the prototype presented here is the result of an open evaluation process of different prototype options, subjected to formal criteria as well as constructive logic and energy efficiency in which all of the agents that have actively participated will form part of their subsequent development.


This video has been recorded during the construction of the Fab Lab prefab house at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona (Spain). The main structure of the prefab house has been manufactured in Germany with large scale wood CNC Machine, the remaining details of the house such as skin, interior and other details have been manufactured in Barcelona, in the Fab Lab. The house is much more than a structure manufactured with CNC Machines, is the result of a team work with people from 25 countries. One team, on project.

Inside the house

Pictures from the in the interiour of the Fab Lab House taken during the first days of the competition. The interior is composed by an integrated social space with a bedroom, kitchen, a small Fab Lab, a bathroom and an elevated small room for invited guests to sleep.

Form follows energy

If the twentieth century championed the premise that ‘form follows function’, in the 21st century ‘form follows energy.’ The house is no longer a machine but an organism to be inhabited.

A climate-passive structure

The Fab Lab House uses the resources of its environment — sun, water and wind — to create a microclimate that passively optimizes the basic conditions of habitability.

A house, a tree

A house is like a tree that captures energy with its solar ‘leaves’ and sends it down to its roots, where is stored, shared, or returned to the house to produce the fruit of electricity.

Project participants

Fab Lab Barcelona

Fab Lab Barcelona is part of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, where it support different educational and research programs related with the multiple scales of the human habitat. It is also the headquarters of the global coordination of the Fab Academy program in collaboration with the Fab Foundation and the MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms; the Fab Academy is a distributed platform of education and research in which each Fab Labs operates as a classroom and the planet as the campus of the largest University in construction in the world, where students learn about the principles, applications and implications of digital manufacturing technology.

AddressCarrer de Pujades, 102, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Phone+34 933 20 95 20

Solar Decathlon Europe

Solar Decathlon Europe is an international competition among universities which promotes research in the development of efficient houses. The objective of the participating teams is to design and build houses that consume as few natural resources as possible and produce minimum waste products during their life cycle. Particular emphasis is put on reducing energy consumption and on obtaining all the necessary energy from the sun.

Website http://www.sdeurope.org/

The Center for Bits and Atoms from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms is an interdisciplinary initiative exploring the boundary between computer science and physical science. CBA studies how to turn data into things, and things into data. It manages facilities, runs research programs, supervises students, works with sponsors, creates startups, and does public outreach.

AddressThe MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, Room E15-401, 20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Phone+1 (617) 253-0392

The team


Vicente Guallart, IaaC Director
Neil Gershenfeld, MIT-CBA Director
Daniel Ibanez, Research Co-Director
Rodrigo Rubio, Research Co-Director


James Brazil
Cesar Daoud
Minnie Jan
Daisuke Nagamoto
Romuald Spilevski
Jezi Stankevic
Ricardo Zaldivar
David Moreno Rubio (external researcher)
Iaac Board
Areti Markopoulou
Laia Pifarre
Willy Muller
Marta Male-Alemany
Lucas Cappelli
Fernando Meneses
Daniela Frogheri
Hemant Purhoit
Cesar Cruz Casares
Luis Fraguada
Jorge Ramirez

Fab Lab Barcelona

Tomas Diez
Guillem Camprodon
Benito Juarez
Victor Freundt
Aysheshim Tilahun
Melat Asefa
Susanna Tesconi

MAA Thesis Project Students

Melissa Mazik
Gopal Garg
Nicholas Waissbluth
Pedro Precedo
Mia Gorretti Layco
Paula Lucia Lopez Gonzalez
Fabio Lopez
Javier Palacios
Brian Miller
Natalija Boljsakov
Acim Hameed

MIT Center For Bits and Atoms

Kenny Cheung
Nadya Peek
David Kopp
Kerry Lynn
Amy Sun

Solar Decathlon Students

Gianluca Santosuosso
Leonidas Paterakis
Jeffrey Christopher Clarke
Jun Huang
Marianne Villalobos Emonet
Ander Gortazar Balerdi
Jacek Markusiewicz
Georgia Kotsari
Eftychia Papathanasiou
Paula Lucia Lopez
Maria Lucia Mogollon
Kfir Gluzberg
Matheus Lopes
Viraj Kataria
Hristo Topchiev
Ilaria La Manna
Tamara Obradovic
Diana Bauder
Pedro Precedo
Tomasz Starczewski
Eleni Kolovou
Veronica Lorenzo Luaces Pico
Emil Burulyanov
Kathleen Anderson
Ali Gharakhani
Edgar Bove
Michael Aaron Harrison

Solar Energy Students

Qiuxiao Jian
Katerina Agorastaki
Jose Alvarez
Tatiana Anagnostara
Shradha Bhandari
Gianmatteo Cossu
Anastasia Fotopoulou
Rodolfo Baiz
Katerina Karagianni
Niovi Ketonis
Maria Koutsari
Karolina Kurzak
Sergio Leone
Guo Liang
Javier Martinez
Larisa Melnikova
Vangelis Moschonas
Vinay Patil
Christina Tsompanoglou
Alejandro Vega
Nathaniel Velez

Summer Workshop Students

Slobodan Radoman
Athina Stamatopoulou
Rodrigo Toledo
Gabriel Ochoa
Kevin Vervuurt
Lourdes Marcano
Luis Odiaga
Maria Claudia Levy

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