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Counter Entropy

RWTH Aachen University
3260 Readership
Counter Entropy
The design of the “Counter-Entropy House“ is based on the idea of a resource efficient, energy-optimized life cycle of the building in which both, the production of components and their transport and eventual disposal are considered.

To reduce the energy balance to a minimum, products with low embodied energy are preferred. Following this principle, the idea of “super-cycling“ is implemented in different variants in the building. Apart from products that are made of recycled material, the draft also includes direct or indirect “object recycling“. This means the reuse of certain items, either in their original function, or in a converted use. In this way a particularly exciting and individual architectural solution can be achieved.


The “Counter Entropy House“ is a single-storey and clearly structured building, consisting of three horizontal zones: On a solid base area, which accommodates the building‘s foundations. The middle zone extends an open floor plan composed of closed block elements and transparent glass surfaces. The upper zone, which is formed by a large, square roof is the special feature of the draft.


With almost 150 m² the “Climate-Roof“ fully uses the maximum usable space and contains several important climatic features: First of all, the integration of photovoltaic and solarthermics ensures the energy and hot water supply for the building. Additionally, the large projection protects from sun and rain and creates interesting outdoor areas.

The roof`s construction consists of five wooden box elements, held together by means of tensioning strands. This innovative technology is normally applied in bridge constructions and has never been used for a building before. Nevertheless the team values the great advantage of the provided plate effect avoiding the need of additional pillars in the outer space.

Living Area

The app. 50 m² living space is zoned into four areas formed by „functional blocks“: The more public part of the building is situated on the east side. Next to the kitchen and dining area there is the south-facing living zone, which is directly connected to the large sun terrace, opening widely to the exterior by an entirely glazed corner.

The sleeping and working area is placed in the western part of the house. Only the north adjoining bathroom, which is formed by two opposing “functional blocks“, is separated from the rest of the interior by a frosted glass door.

By shifting the more private area in the west towards the eastern public zones, protected inside and outside spaces are generated.

Erected in a wooden frame construction, the “functional blocks“ do not only serve as closed, protective outer walls and load-bearing structure for the roof but rather function as a frame for the interior furnishing. The space-saving arrangement as well as the multifunctionality of the furniture offers the residents a flexible adaptation to different usage requirements. Correspondingly even the free-standing elements like tables or sofas can be stored in the “functional blocks“, in order to create a large, open space.

Besides the “functional blocks”, the floor plan is complemented by extensive openable glazing, which can also be slid into the blocks. In combination with the projecting roof, this creates a smooth transition between indoor and outdoor space.

To protect the windows from the sun and thus limiting the interior solar thermal heat during summer, an additional sun protection is necessary. For this reason, a curtain is attached directly to the roof edge, and can be fully drawn around the building as required, generating protected outside areas. In this way, the very extroverted “Counter Entropy House” appears mysterious and gets a new, introverted character. Accordingly, the user can flexibly change the degree of transparency of the building depending on the mood of the moment.



Variation 1
This variation consists of wooden hollow box girders. The thermal insulation is inside the boxes. Correspondingly the structure level of the house is also the house’s thermal envelope. Therefore the roof´s thickness can be reduced. For the transport the roof will be separated into five 12 m x 2.40 m modules. The single modules are held together by screws and adhesive. In the lateral direction to the main supporting direction of the hollow boxes there will be two steel joints.

The distance between them measures 9.90 m. They are supported by the “Functional Blocks“. The major part of the steel joints is stored in the hollow box girders. So the steel joint is almost completely insulated. Thereby the thermal bridges are minimized. Each steel joint is based on three timber columns, which are inside of the wood stand wall of the “Functional Blocks“.

Variation 2
Our basic structure consists of wooden hollow box girders and squared pre-stressing strands. Those box girders are re-enforced with orthogonal braces. Since the laminated wood veneer braces are over pressurized they can operate as one grillage. The boxes are insulated with loose filling in the inside and additional hard isolation on top. With a model in the simulation software we can determine the characteristic loads and especially the moment of flection due to load effects.

In the next step we set the initial load in order to over pressurize the brace cross section. Knowing the required initial load we can design face and form of the braces. Further details such as number and position of the strands need to be discussed with the manufacturer afterwards.

Comparison of both variations

Even though the simple steel joint structure seemed to be a functional option, as it is a classical superstructure, we were not completely satisfied because it did not meet all our self-imposed requirements. Not only the steel joints represent an avoidable thermal bridge, furthermore we were not quite comfortable using joints of steel due to their bad ecological performance. Additionally this construction inhibits thin component heights.

For esthetic reasons the team prefers a plain roof-surface. Furthermore variation 2 seems to be the more suitable variation for the connection between roof-window and roofwall. For this reasons we are pursuing the second variation. Attention should be paid to the fact that the specific loads do not apply to the entire roof surface.

Solar heat only affects the area above the technical room, while the photovoltaic takes effect on the rest of the roof. The thermal insulation, the cooling ceiling and the electronics are only located above the house’s interior.


For the facade design the choice of an appropriate material, which reflects the concept of our house, seems to be very important. During the comparison of different materials several criteria have a significant position.

Not only the idea of the “Counter Entropy House“ should be intensified. But also the technical, constructive and the creative aspects have to correspond to the concept. Moreover further criteria such as lifecycle, availability, construction and effort, and the properties of each material, and also the communicating appearance of the house has an essentiality.

During the search for materials the idea of “reuse“ and “recycling“ was the most important aspect. Products, which will be upgraded by a continuing use, were focused on. Among others, these products consist of a variation of old uses and different raw materials. Finally, the basic selection was concentrated on wood, metal and plastic.

Building services

Our house is suitable to be built in Madrid as well as in Aachen and will function under the given climatic conditions. Therefore it is necessary to develop an energy concept that deals with the heat in Spain as well as the cold winter season in Germany. In addition to that, it shall comply with all requirements of the standards for a zero energy house and shall offer a high level of living comfort.

In order to meet the conditions of the competition, comprehensive building services are required: The photovoltaic system is a particularly important component because it provides the whole energy for the building. To get this system in line with the individual sustainable concept of the team, the students have chosen thin film modules, having a much more ecological production.

Additionally, solar thermal vacuum tube collectors are installed, supplying the hot water cycle of the building. A ventilation system ensures pleasant temperature conditions inside, seasonally blowing in cold or warm air. Furthermore, there is a cooling blanket, which is fed with water from the nightly radiative cooling on the roof, as well as PCM materials in the interior.

A decisive part of the technical equipment is the building automation system that enables centralized control and management of home appliances and machinery. Moreover, the user is able to check current energy balances of the facilities at any time. This technique can also be used to inform about the origins and the life cycle of the individual building components. For this purpose, all the furniture is provided with QR codes the visitors can read out with their smart-phones thus gaining information about the appropriate materials.


The interior of the “Counter Entropy House” is characterized by an open space structured with smooth transitions. At the same time, there is a clear zoning into four areas, which are formed by “Functional Blocks“.

The more public part of the building is situated at the east side. Next to the kitchen and dining area is the south-facing living zone, which is directly connected to the large sun terrace, opening widely to the exterior by a glazing of the entire corner.


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