Living together, sharing facilities and resources is necessary if we are going to keep our standard of living and maintain a sustainable future. This means that the future must be designed differently with emphasis on scenarios that has not been accounted for before. Making a 1+ ½ house that can provide space for a student, extra family member, grandparents or an isolation space will ease the transition while still being able to build dense residential areas in cities. The Moriyama house in Tokyo, Japan is a good example of how this is done now. A goal for this concept is to generalize ideas and means for this kind of dwellings.

The concept is born by exploding a traditional Chinese courtyard and then reassembling it with modern facilities and the family and community in mind. This provides a shape where sun utilization is optimized, the community feel is strong and connection to nature apparent. The house is designed to be ereced as a row house from the center of Zhangijakou.

The house consists of 140 m2 which has been optimized to fit up to six inhabitants. It has an entrance either in the North and South side. When entering from the south side you enter straight into the courtyard where a pond is locatedThe pond can be used for collecting rainwater or to have fishes swimming around in, which the residents can catch and cook. From the courtyard there are three entrances to the house. As the house has been designed with great focus on a quick building process, the toilets have been placed in each end of the corridor so that it can be delivered as a container module. The west and northern wings contain the private spaces. The northern wing contains three bedrooms, which will receive a comfortable natural lightning due to its location. The wing facing west is designed as a flexible room that can be either a bedroom or an office as seen on the floorplan, but it could just as well be turned into a shop. To optimize the corridor space in the north wing, a desk has been placed there. The common areas are all located in the eastern wing.

The southern façade is meant to be facing out to the road, and therefore the windows have been placed 1.1m above the ground to allow for some privacy. The west and east façade are left without any openings in order to function as a row house except for the technician door on the east side which is placed due to the competition rules.

The facades facing the courtyard have larger windows allowing for good daylight inside the common area and the flex room.

The most noticeable design choice is the roof. The curved shape draws inspiration from traditional Chinese roofs. And by having the connection in the middle we can optimize rainwater harvesting and solar energy collection. The curved shapes also provide optimal angles for energy production in the morning and evening hours. This is when the energy demand is at it’s peak and the aim is thus to minimize the need for energy conservation. Lowering the need for extra batteries in the house.

The shape of the roof determines where rainwater will be harvested. We have made two different options, which are outlined in the next section. The simple curved solution will have rainwater harvesting primarily on the front façade. And the double curved roof solution will have capturing primarily in the courtyard.

The curvature of the roof will depend on, as well as influence the choice of PV panels. Therefore, this needs to outlined in close cooperation with the energy responsible people. The initial reason for choosing the simple curved roof is based on this, imagining straight, slim PV panels that will cover the roof.

It is a design decision to not have PV panels on any of the walls. These are low in efficiency and would not contribute much to the overall energy production.

Alternative roof

The roof is currently designed as a cylinder subtracted from a square. This means that the roof height grows increasingly higher from south to north. An alternative is to subtract a sphere instead of a cylinder. This would allow the roof to stay lower and optimize the water collection in the courtyard. However, the shape is less optimal for solar energy collection.


The house is build up by container modules with a height of 2.5m and 3.0m. The slope of the roof will therefore not be visible from the inside, and is merely there to mimic the chinese curved roofs and optimize the solar energy collection. As the climate in Zhangjiakou is very cold in the winter and warm in summer, the insulation in the walls needs to be highly insulating. The chosen thickness of the insulation is 320mm. With two gypsum boards on the interior wall and a 140mm cross-laminated timber panel on the exterior the façade becomes 485mm thick. The CLT-panels will consist the structural element of the wall construction.

The cross-laminated timber is partly covered by a bamboo sheeting. Bamboo is a fast-growing, sustainable material that is locally available in China. This connects to the main design principles of the concept.

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Aurora DTU Solar Decathlon 2021

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