Following the Example of Freiburg
A New Solar Housing Estate near Basel

In the prosperous triangle of Germany, France and Switzerland, in Grenzach-Wyhlen close to Basel, the solar village "Grenzacher Horn" is going to be built. As plusenergy houses, all buildings will generate more energy than they consume. With over 130 apartments on 26,500 square meters, “Grenzacher Horn” will be twice as large as its role model in Freiburg and thus the title of "world's largest settlement in positive energy standard" will go to Grenzach. There will be double, terraced and multi-storey houses, variable apartment sizes from 60 up to about 200 square metres. The houses are situated in quiet, residential, car-free streets and around protected courtyards.

Location of Solar Settlement Grenzacher Horn

The highlight of the project: along the railroad tracks, on the southwest boundary of the site, there is a highly absorbent noise protection wall which not only shields away the noise of the train, but at the same time functions as an energy-generating building: the "Solar Shed". The entire length of noise barrier is equipped with a solar roof, which covers car and bike garages, and storage rooms. The cars are kept on the edge of the site, so lots of room for gardens and public green remains. A playground and a central public square complete the concept.

Building Concept
All buildings have barrier-free access, and elevators will as well make all apartments accessible barrier-free. The construction with

Survey Map of Solar Settlement Grenzacher Horn (Landscape Design: Atelier Dreiseitl, Überlingen)

limestone walls and reinforced concrete floors allows for heat storage, a comfortable indoor temperature both in summer and winter, and a good fire and noise protection. The facades are mainly plastered, with wooden coverings in some areas that stand out in colour and material. And they have a high quality external thermal insulation composite system.

There will be variable one-, two- and multi-family houses with attika storeys and optional attachments. The units can be divided in variable ways. This allows for a flexible response to changing needs and demands.

Single, Two and Multiple Family Houses

Solar Settlement Grenzacher Horn (Rendering: Courvoisier Stadtentwicklung, Basel)

Energy Concept
The objective is to maximize the degree of self-sufficiency of the houses and the whole settlement through energy efficiency and renewable energy production, distribution and use. The project will set new standards both in the field of heat supply as well as in electricity and electric mobility.

  • Energy Efficient Plusenergiehaus® with passive and active solar use

  • PV Solar Power Plant as building roofs - Yield: approximately 540,000 kWh/year

  • PV Solar Power Plant on "Solar Shed" - Yield: about 560,000 kWh/a

  • District electricity and district heating concept with combined heat and power

  • Intelligent power management, including the building and equipment usage, communication and mobility, and energy storage

  • Renewable energy for mobility with battery charging and power management

  • Integrated solar street, square and street lighting with innovative LED technology

  • The buildings have " KfW Efficiency House 40” standard and thus receive the highest possible state funding. Using active energy systems on top of that, they become Plusenergy Houses. The following measures will be applied:

  • Compact building design and well insulated building envelope

  • Ventilation with heat recovery

  • Water-saving fittings and sanitary items

  • Hot water connection for washing machines and dishwashers

  • Highly insulated water pipes and storage tank with fresh water station

  • LED bulbs (outside, stairs, emergency lighting)

  • Energy-saving elevators

  • Guide to Energy Efficiency: energy saving household appliances and lighting

  • Rooms Flooded With Light

    Living Comfort
    All energy efficiency measures, at the same time, create a well-tempered indoor climate and maintain it at all ambient temperatures. Light-flooded rooms with good ventilation make the plusenergy buildings a comfortable home:

  • Low temperature heating, possibly also to be used for cooling

  • Free cooling by night air in summer

  • Optimized heat retention by building materials

  • Ventilation with heat and cold recovery

  • Light-filled rooms with large windows (special triple-glazed windows with efficient heat insulation)

  • Fixed and movable sunscreens

  • Street Space With Solar Shed

    Mobility Concept
    A comprehensive sustainability approach would include pioneering transportation planning. The Solar Settlement Grenzacher Horn is well connected to public transport: Two bus stops are nearby, and from there you can reach in the city center of Basel and at all major interchanges within 15 minutes. In the settlement we will have:

  • Traffic-calmed access road – 20 km/h

  • Parking with carports and garages in the "Solar Shed"

  • Provision of e-car- and e-bike-sharing vehicles

  • Protected areas and solar stations for electric cars, electric vehicles and electric bikes

  • Community Life
    Sustainable living means communal life: neighbors join together, they self-organize, and they jointly own and use many things and services. This creates synergies, avoiding unnecessary consumption. Architecture and urban planning helps to set up the conditions for this, for an atmosphere of solidarity and a communicative life in public space.

  • Little traffic, sheltered outdoor areas

  • Multi-generational playground and sheltered courtyards with playgrounds for infants

  • Car Sharing

  • Car and bike sharing

  • Close cooperation of residents and utilities company: self consumption and distribution inside the estate of the energy produced – and sale of the surplus electricity into the public grid

  • Community activities such as urban gardening

  • Communication in the settlement by information display and website with intranet and newsletters

  • Purchasing groups, swap meet, flea market, neighborhood festivals

  • Community living - even across generations - is possible in the courtyards and the building groups surrounding them, but as well in individual houses and apartments. Living and working in one place means short distances and avoiding traffic. There are house and floor plan types especially designed and particularly suited for cooperative building groups or for sharing flats from three to twelve people – which also make ideal homes for families. These houses have optional public areas and guest apartments. Work spaces, practices, and work in commonly used areas can be realized for example in the garden floors and ground floors.

    Multiple Family Dwelling

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    "Moeckernkiez" (site map drawn by hochC Landschaftsarchitektur)

    1st prize and order
    The citizens’ cooperative for the 30,000 square meters construction site “Moeckernkiez” on the edge of “Gleisdreieck” park in Berlin-Kreuzberg set up an invited two-stage design competition: The requirements were high. What they want is nothing less than a unique and very ambitious lighthouse project that combines a cooperative and multi-generation and multi-cultural living approach with integration of disabled people, and which at the same time sets new standards for environmental sustainability,

    70 offices had applied, nine of them were invited to hand in a competition design, five offices were eventually chosen (without a further ranking differentiation). Each of these five, including Rolf Disch Solar architecture, were assigned one or more buildings in the area.

    Urban planning concept
    Based on the given urban context Rolf Disch suggested the following changes:

    Housing row (view from east)

    1) Improved connection of Moeckernkiez to the Kreuzberg district by introducing a large square on the street level of Moeckernstrasse / Yorckstrasse. At this level, the public uses of the district such as shops, hotel, neighborhood workshops, etc. are located.

    2) Improved connection of Moeckernkiez towards the park and Schoeneberg (tube stations) by the district square towards the west.

    3) Internal connection: Both squares are connected by a curved axis, to which additional little neighbourhood squares are

    Pilot project "Moeckernkiez", perspective (Rendering: Loomilux)


    Building construction concept
    In the conception and design of the buildings we were guided by the following terms:

    - Cost / economic feasibility
    - Flexibility
    - Environment / Energy
    - Design
    - Variety, attractions
    - Accessibility for disabled

    Apartment complex, floor plan (design by Rolf Disch Solar Architecture)

    Based on a simple and economical construction, Rolf Disch Solar Architecture designed a building block system for various floor plans and apartment sizes. These floor plans can be arranged flexibly in the two proposed building structures and thus create a variety of different situations, reacting to the specific requirements. Within these building structures and floorplan schemes, variants such as individual lofts and shared flats, large and small flats are possible. Also, various commercial uses can be integrated easily. Basically: The floor plans are highly flexible and can adapt easily to changing wishes and necessities.

    Energy - Ecology
    All buildings are planned as plusenergy buildings, i.e. they produce more energy than they consume over one year. The building envelope is highly insulated and reduces the thermal losses to a minimum, together with a ventilation system with heat recovery.

    Pilot project "Moeckernkiez" - view from the park (Rendering: Loomilux)

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    The Solar Tetrahedron

    The Solar Tetrahedron

    The company te-trade AG from Freiburg offers everything in light technology from the design and planning of lighting systems to solar lighting solutions. At the part of commercial site “Haid” Freiburg which has recently been assigned for development, Rolf Disch Solar Architecture is designing a new building for te-trade corpration.

    The commercial building has the shape of a tetrahedron - which corresponds to the company logo. With its strong form, it functions as a “hinge” between the new and the old part of “Haid”. The new part of the business park thus receives a symbol representing Freiburg high-tech businesses and technology research: at highest architectural, energy, and ecological standards.

    With a total height of about 48 meters, the building has 7,167 sqm of gross floor area, of which 4,768 sqm are used space. Outside the inner facade an additional semi-transparent photovoltaic facade will be constructed.
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    Blumen-Rausch, Karlsruhe-Durlach

    Blumen-Rausch (South View)

    Rolf Disch SolarArchitecture is presently working on a design for a mixed-use building in Karlsruhe-Durlach: One of the existing buildings will be torn down and replaced by a new construction. This new two-storey building will have seven residential units, and it will host the florist’s shop “Blumen-Rausch” of the house owner. The ground floor level will be completely handicapped accessible. The existing building which will be preserved will have students’ flats.

    The new building will have passive house standard (KfW-40). We will install ca. 100 square metres of photovoltaic panels (ca. 17 kWp). Heat supply will also be from renewable sources: A wood pellet oven for central heating.
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    The Powerbox


    The power box is the brain, heart and lungs of the plus energy house. Here all functional devices are put together: energy and access, building technology and piping. From here, all circuits are coordinated: water and electricity, heat and air.

    The Model contains the entrance area and the stairs. Bathroom, toilets and kitchen are either in the box adjacent to it. The ventilation system is installed here - with heat recovery of an efficiency of over 90%.

    Above all, located right at the entrance, you find the room for all technical devices such as the solar station, heat storage, electric distribution, and all metering devices. So the house owner can easily control both production and consumption of resources.

    The power box is delivered prefab. This has three advantages: First, through standardization and prefabrication high quality is guaranteed. Second, the construction time can be shortened. Once the box is there, the construction of the whole house does not take long. And thirdly it saves a lot of money.

    The Power Box was designed for different applications and types of houses: for detached houses and terraced houses as well as for multi-storey housing. - Some applications can be seen here:

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    Solar Grandstand for Solar Sports

    The "Solar Grandstand" from the company Solar Sports offers an innovative, elegant, and yet robust shelter for sports clubs, owners of sports fields and the guests and spectators of their events.

    The electricity produced by the "Solar Grandstand" (using PV modules of Solarfabrik Freiburg) could for example power a heat pump for hot water for the showers in the club house. The electricity can be used directly, too, for lighting and other purposes, and thus save the club a lot of money; the remaining unused electricity can be fed into the public grid.

    The "Solar Stand" was designed by Rolf Disch Solar Architecture and Fraunhofer Instiute of Solar Energy in Freiburg.