Less than a year to go. Eleven months till final expo of Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22. And this crucial deadline of our FIRSTlife project can be seen on every design update. We are getting closer to provide our vision of modern dormitories in Wuppertal, Germany, a city of the expected finals of the competition.
Moreover, we now know the exact spot of our prototypical house demonstration unit. At the ceremonial lot, Lord Mayor of Wuppertal Uwe Schneidewind picked a lot with FIRSTlife name soon enough, so we could get wanted spot number 8. It is the perfect place for our prototypical extension of dormitory house, close enough to the main building, where it can be risen and then shine.
Designs of Větrnik extension and HDU (house demonstration unit) were in the spring period still fairly interrupted by the Covid pandemic situation. All the meetings were held online. Also, the teams grew rapidly (now it has more than 30 members), and the newcomers had a tough time getting in the running project. It was necessary since we have a lot to do. It inevitably concluded in the situation where team members struggled to get the momentum. But the members showed their team spirit and quality.
After the last deliverable in March 2021, we’ve decided to take a step back and look at the given project in the bigger picture. There were many arguments about the design attributes during the spring period, but it was worth it. A new, updated version of FIRSTlife dormitories consist of many cutting-edge technologies. For example, hybrid solar panels were integrated into the design. This means we will be able to use the photovoltaic part of the panel to get electricity and simultaneously gain heated water from the photothermic part of the hybrid panel. Moreover, these elements will provide shade for occupants of the upper green roof. We are also taking care of the water and its usage in the building. As our team member and sustainability expert Ing. Jan Pešta says: “Considering the water scarcity in the future, the solving of the design of decentralised systems of water treatment in the buildings is inevitable. Therefore, we are using vertical root zone wastewater treatment, which combines water purification with enhancing biodiversity and cooling of the south side of the building.”
Our design was also taken outside of virtual design rooms and shown to the experts in many fields of expertise. Invited guests, such as teachers from the faculty of civil engineering, scientists from UCEEB, and experts from the business, gave us sometimes hard to swallow, but precious feedback, which is always necessary.
And we are also starting to get recognized by relevant institutions. The project now has patronage of the Minister of Foreign affairs of the Czech Republic, CTU Rector and the Czech-German Chamber of Commerce. “This is essential when students reach out to future partners, whether from community organizations, government or companies. The student is not coming from the street, he’s having support from the highest places.”, says Professor Jan Tywoniak, faculty advisor of the team. The HDU is not going to get build by itself, we need financial support from the public companies. To be more precise, we already have some meetings underway, so it looks like the market is, nevertheless of the pandemic, ready to support students and sustainable projects.
The construction of the FIRSTlife project is far from here, but we are getting closer every day. We had some struggles on the way, but it is great to see the growth of the idea, and how much the team can overcome to design and, in the end, truly build their vision of modern student living.