“ripple house will surprise in Wuppertal”

Student team VIRTUe is looking confidently to the future. ripple, the house they have built, will remain on the KOE field until the end of April. When it leaves the campus, it will be packed up and taken to sustainable housing competition Solar Decathlon Europe 2021/22 in Wuppertal. Here, it will be rebuilt to be admired by the jury and general public. Cursor asked VIRTUe’s PR man Joris Jorna to describe the team's mood.

photo Tom van Well

“Of the eighteen teams taking part in the competition, we are the only one to have finished all our construction work. This means we now have more time than the others to spend on the testing and optimization phase,” says Joris Jorna, architectural student and spokesperson for Team VIRTUe. It has already been discovered that ripple's energy efficiency can be improved by replacing a faulty component in the heat pump. “And we are now busy making the interior as sustainable as possible. The items of furniture consist of modular elements and we are using environmentally friendly paint.”


Sustainability is only one of the ten categories in which ripple will be assessed. Comfort, innovation and communication with the general public are also important. “We have to convey the idea that our design makes a sustainable lifestyle appealing to both the individual residents and the whole neighborhood.”

European countries won't be the only competitors at Solar Decathlon Europe (SDE). “In September our board met all the other boards competing in Wuppertal. There are teams from Thailand, Taiwan and Turkey as well as a host of European countries. Meeting other students in the same field is fun but it's even more fun when they come from all over the world. You can really learn a lot.”

Corona hurdles

The work of physically constructing ripple was completed between lockdowns; VIRTUe had a fair bit of luck with their schedule. But corona did complicate their preparations. Jorna experienced first-hand that the smooth glide towards digitalization achieved at the university was not something other partners were able to take for granted. “There's no denying it's been difficult not being allowed to visit suppliers to discuss materials or to huddle round a construction drawing with the building contractor.”

But it must be said that these partners have been indispensable, says Jorna. “Without our sponsors, this project would not have succeeded. The support we've had has ranged from materials to (wo)man hours. We ourselves don't have any construction experience. It's been fabulous to have two builders - and others - helping us.”

Valuable misfortune

The VIRTUe team has also had some bad luck. “When that ship Ever Given was stuck in the Suez Canal, it was carrying a stainless steel T-section intended for ripple.” But oddly enough, this piece of bad luck was the very thing that taught the student team so much. “We were running around like crazy, calling everyone up looking for a solution. We managed to find sponsors so that we could have another beam made in Brabant. You learn so much more from something like this happening than from a lecture telling you that risks exist.”

At the end of April ripple will be transported in parts to Germany. The rebuilding phase and the jury phase follow in May and on June 10th the official opening will be held. Eight of the eighteen houses have been chosen by the organizers of SDE to serve as hostels for tourists after the competition. “Unfortunately, ripple is not among them. The selection was made based on an early design of our house. Which we completely changed later on.” This is another reason why Jorna thinks that the organizers will be happily surprised by VIRTUe. “We are still very enthusiastic; we are convinced that we have a good chance of getting a good score in the competition. We've already had so many positive reactions.”

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