External Shot (Photo by Vincent Lam)
Lumenhaus was designed and built by a research program at Virginia Tech as a "solar house" integrating architecture and technology. In 2010, it became the winner of the International Solar Decathlon Competition in Madrid. It has been on a travelling exhibition in various American cities, including Washington and Chicago. I was lucky enough to be able to go through it in detail while I was visiting Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House as a day trip from New York.
The grounds of Farnsworth House is the most appropriate site to house this experimental building because the design of the Lumenhaus was inspired by the glass house. Like Farnsworth, the north and south walls are all glass to maximise view and sunlight for the occupants, the layouts of both houses feature a central core of utilities with circulation either side.
Solar panels over entrance double up as awning (Photo by Vincent Lam)
The name "Lumenhaus" was derived from "lumen" which means "the power of light" and "haus", meaning house or home in German but more importantly, refer to the Bauhaus movement and architect Mies van der Rohe.
Lumenhaus has a very small footprint with a rectangular open plan. With the large amount of glass, the transperant house merges into its environment seamlessly and feels very generous. Fortunately, the extreme heat load in summer is controlled by the fully automated Eclipsis System. The sliding layers of screens response to weather conditions outside to balance energy efficiency with user comfort. It is a zero-energy home completely powered by the sun.
Bed becomes a sofa during the day (Photo by Vincent Lam)The entry to the house is in the middle, once inside one can either go to the bedroom at the left or the living / kitchen to the right.
Furniture was designed to be multi-function, the bed can become a sofa during the day while the kitchen bench can become a bar, offering flexibity of use and minimising the floor area / space required. As a result this small house can support functions of a much larger residence.
The modular design means that the house itself is very flexible. Multiple units can be connected to create houses with different numbers of bedrooms to adapt to the owners' changing needs.
- Vincent Lam
Living & kitchen opening out to the green (Photo by Vincent Lam)