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German students design rooftop solar panels that double as housing

The design can solve the issue of scarce housing in urban areas.

July 30, 2014 |

Traditionally, solar panels are a flat addition placed on the roof of a building. But students at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany have designed “OnTop,” solar panels big enough to be an extra unit of housing that can fit on top of existing apartment buildings.

The project was developed for Solar Decathlon Europe in Versailles, France, where it won first place for the "Social Housing" category.

In an interview with Fast Company Exist, Sebastian Fiedler, a faculty member of the university, says the design can be a solution to make cities more “climate neutral” while also solving the housing dilemma, because “building on top of an existing building doesn’t take up new land, and no additional infrastructure has to be created.”

Watch the OnTop team construct their design for the Solar Decathlon Europe below.

“Many people want to live in the city and they are willing to pay a lot of money for it,” Fiedler continued. “It is a powerful economic force. We want to use this force to enhance the existing buildings.”

The design goes hand-in-hand with Germany’s aim at making all buildings climate neutral by 2050, and the team believes it will be a solution that allows rents to remain the same and avoid gentrification because it allows newcomers to reside in the city without displacing long-time residents instead of living in new developments in the suburbs.

Read more about the project at Fast Co. Exist

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