© Fred Hatt

The Swiss Team’s NeighborHub won the Solar Decathlon Competition 2017 in Denver, Colorado, USA.



The Swiss Living Challenge aims to support the population to decrease its energy consumption and eventually preserve the natural resources of the country.
How can we achieve these goals? In order to decrease our energy consumption, we have to take action in areas ranging from our mobility to our food. The Swiss Living Challenge project (which reunites 4 schools) offers alternatives, encouraging inhabitants from a neighborhood to adopt sustainable behaviors thanks to its solar house, the NeighborHub.


The Swiss team has designed an instigator of change, a neighborhood house that can be integrated into various urban settings. The aim of the NeighborHub, as it is called, is to bring neighbors together and imagine with them more energy-efficient solutions to consume less and better.

We have to act together in order to reduce our consumption. The house will be a place of meetings and exchanges where activities will be held and where people will be able to share moments of their life.
There will be tools and alternatives about seven driving themes on which everyone can act: energy, water managementwaste management, mobility, foodmaterials and biodiversity.
Inhabitants living nearby can get advice and take part in interactive events and lectures on these seven themes. NeighborHub’s architectural design includes a large multifunctional space to facilitate these various shared activities.

By changing our habits today we can change the world of tomorrow.



Our energy expenditure is tremendous, especially since technology is at the heart of our daily life. Where does all this electricity come from? Dams and nuclear plants produce the majority of energy in Switzerland. By encouraging the use of renewable energy in our homes, we can reduce the exploitation and decrease our reliance on nuclear and fossil fuel.

The NeighborHub is solely powered by solar energy. Come visit our house to understand how it works.

Our water resources are limited. The separation of the different types of water at its source and using water-free systems would allow us to optimise the use of this resource. Indeed, drinking water supplies all of our services, while some of these uses are not justified. Toilets, for instance, waste a lot of this precious resource. The use of dry toilets allows us to reduce our water consumption and to produce compost by giving back to the earth what we took from it.

In the NeighborHub, rainwater is collected through the roof and is employed to do laundry and water the garden. We implement various water management systems which value our resources in order to stay as close as possible to the natural cycle of water and nutriments. Together, we can find alternatives!

The development of urban zones highly decreases the amount of space dedicated to plants and wildlife, although they are essential to our ecosystem’s balance. Fortunately, nature always finds its way, even in the city. We can enable the reinsertion of biodiversity by integrating green spaces to our infrastructures.

We want to participate in the development of biodiversity by equipping the NeighborHub with a vegetated roof, garden boxes and greenhouses. This equipment is available to the inhabitants during gardening courses and other workshops. We can make an impact on our environment with simple gestures in the everyday life.

Transportation represents approximately 30% of our global energy spending. How can we lower our consumption? What are the possible alternatives?

On a daily basis, going to work via public transports or by walking would already start the change. More and more of us want to change our habits, but doing this alone is never really motivating. The NeighborHub allows you to meet your neighbours in order to approach this together. Alternative means of transports are available around the house, such as an electric vehicle and its charging terminal as well as bicycles and three-wheeled scooters. For those who are already well equipped but enjoy tinkering, they can come and repair their bikes.

By re-establishing a local life around services and proximity leisure, the need to travel by car will decrease. The space once dedicated to cars will return to nature and mankind!

Domestic waste represents the majority of urban waste. A large part of this garbage eventually gets incinerated. A first step consists of sorting and composting our waste. As a result, we can enhance the value of the garbage by giving it a second life. But the main objective is still to reduce our waste by avoiding, for example, packaged products.

Recycling cabinets which allow you to sort out your waste are placed around the NeighborHub. During workshops, some materials such as PET are transformed to give life to a new object. Repair tools are also available to repair electrical and electronic devices.

By giving a second life to our objects, we avoid consuming more, pollute less and save money.

The choice of materials we use has an impact on our environment and on our health. The earth’s resources are limited, therefore it is important to promote renewable materials for both construction and everyday objects.

In our house, you will be able to discover our wooden structure or even use our furniture that is also designed in this same material. Wood does not consume a lot of energy throughout its life cycle. Hence this consumption, called grey energy, is relatively low. A positive carbon footprint is even positive since a tree stores CO2 while growing. Our resources can be preserved if we favour local materials that have a low ecological impact and are easily recyclable or reusable.

Most of the food products we consume have travelled many kilometres before they land into our plates. Paradoxically, local farmers have trouble selling their products. By buying local food, we reduce travel  and therefore spend less energy while encouraging the local economy. The NeighborHub will serve as an exchange place between local producers and inhabitants. We wish to encourage their trade and promote them.

Another interesting alternative would be to grow our own fruits and vegetables. However, not everyone has access to a green and cultivable spaces. We will set up vegetable gardens that would be available to you around the NeighborHub. Experts will be able to share their knowledge to help you grow delicious food.

neighborhub.epfl.ch is a web platform dedicated to presenting the NeighborHub and the 7 driving themes it promotes through funny and surprising questions at different scales: at Switzerland’s level, at Fribourg’s level and the NeighborHub’s scale as well. Have you ever wonder Or And All the answers can be found on neighborhub.epfl.ch!