How does sustainable building work in the city? – SWR . knowledge

18 college teams compete against each other in the Solar Decathlon: who has the most innovative design? A team from Baden-Württemberg accompanied us during the preparations.

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This competition will be held for the first time this year in Germany. The Solar Decathlon begins on June 10 in Wuppertal. It is the world’s largest university competition for sustainable building and living.

The Biberach team relies on recycling and innovation

The participating teams come from eleven countries. You have to choose one of three tasks: renovate and expand a building, close a vacant plot or add something to an existing building.

The Biberach team recently decided: They want to add three floors to an existing café in Wuppertal to save space. They want to impress the jury with reusable wooden walls, custom-designed gravel insulation, and a tubular solar system. The students created a part of their design in real size on the competition site in Wuppertal.

The Biberach team is designing three additional floors to add to an existing café in Wuppertal.


The Biberach team worked on their design for a year. They want to show that even a fairly small university can do innovative and sustainable architecture. Never before has there been a project where so many students from a variety of subjects such as energy technology, building technology, architecture or building physics have worked together.

“We are improvised. Since we are participating in the project for the first time, there are a lot of new things and a lot of unexpected things happening, but we have always found solutions so far.”

Students deal with it themselves

Unlike many competitors, the students here manufacture many of the parts themselves, such as the wooden walls, and are supported by professionals. Two master carpenters from the Holzbau Training Center in Biberach look after the team. Guild craftsmen often stand next to the students, observing them, explaining and sometimes interfering.

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Bieberach wants to score with a new type of gravel insulation

Building physicist Professor Andreas Gerber is also part of the team. He is an expert in climate-friendly construction. Gerber hopes to get a few extra jury points for shock-absorbent sound insulation made of gravel, which the group installs in floors in place of mineral wool or hard foam. Because gravel stores heat especially well.

“We’re using padding that hasn’t been built before. We’re building it here for the first time and I think if we can show it’s working properly, there might be potential for the future. That’s important to me.”

A team from the university in Biberach fills pebbles onto the wooden planks that will later form the ceiling or floor.  (Photo: SWR)

Instead of mineral wool or hard foam, Biberach students pour gravel into the spaces between wooden floors. Professor Gerber explains that this soundproofing at the feet should also act as a heat store.


Green Energy and Jobs: The Tubular Solar System as a Garden Canopy

The people from Biberach also want to integrate existing technology in a meaningful way – for example a photovoltaic system made up not of solar panels but of individual tubes. Feature: Light and water can pass through here. Student Leopold Wimper explains that the system can be built on the flat roof of a café so that a roof garden can grow underneath.

A student works on a tube solar array on the ground.  It looks like a great heater for towels.  (Photo: SWR)

A tubular solar system is reminiscent of a large cooler. Structure advantage: light and water can penetrate the solar roof for plants in the garden.


The winner will be chosen in two weeks

The competition is also open to visitors. In two weeks, the decision will be made on whether the Biberach family will actually win the Solar Decathlon.

“We are happy when all the systems are working. If the team celebrates happily at the end, that’s very good. And if we take any trophies home with us, that’s the icing on the cake.”

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