Freiberg, Germany, is home to a remarkable solar village – Solarsiedlung – bursting with ultra-low energy buildings. The solar settlement (complete with a control centre, fittingly named Sonnenschiff [Sun Ship]), generates 420,00 kWh of solar energy, from a total photovoltaic output of around 445 kWh peak per year, which is four times the amount of energy they consume.
Masterfully designed by Rolf Disch, this solar emporium reportedly boasts an infrastructure fit for a city catchment area of around 25,000 people. Presently spanning 11,000m², the development comprises of multi-storey townhouses and a commercial building. The 59 residential homes nestle under very simple shed roofs with deep overhangs that allow the winter sun in, but shade the buildings from the harsher summer sun. The penthouses have access to rooftop gardens that exploit all available solar resources and a rainwater recycling system that irrigates the gardens and supplies the toilets with grey water.
Optimised orientation was a key strategy in maximising the Solarsiedlung’s solar potential and energy efficiency. Along with meticulous planning making certain that the buildings were positioned just far enough apart to provide sufficient light to the lower floors in the winter months. Triple-pane windows also ensure the interiors are bathed in natural light, and heat is efficiently kept in. The homes and offices are rigged with woodchip boilers for heat in the winter, decreasing their environmental footprint even more.
The project is also teeming with environmentally-friendly construction materials and advanced technologies like phase-change materials (PCMs) and vacuum insulation to significantly boost the buildings’ thermal performance. Not surprisingly, the project is heralded worldwide as a leading exemplar in energy efficiency, and proud recipient of many an award.