Community Involvement Report 2012
   

The story in numbers

15.000 Euro

Petrom’s support for the project.
The PRISPA House ranked on the following positions at the 2012 Solar Decathlon:

9th place

out of 18 in the general classification

2nd place

for Energy Efficiency

2nd place

for Public`s Choice

Honorable Mention

for promoting the use and integration of solar panels

The Sun, seen through PRISPA

PRISPA (the stoop) is the first house in Romania operating exclusively on solar energy. The achievement is even more important, considering that it was built by students.

When asked how 45 students from the Bucharest Technical University of Construction (UTCB), Ion Mincu University of Architecture (UAIM) and the Bucharest University of Polytechnics managed to build PRISPA, the first energetically independent house in Romania, Pierre Bortnowski, qualified architect and coordinator of the project, says that, at the beginning, the team was faced with general reluctance, but this only made him even keener to succeed. ”I find the others` lack of confidence stimulating. It is what drives me the most. If someone tells me something is impossible, I want to prove him wrong on principle”, he adds.

Pierre got the idea for the house at the 2010 ”Solar Decathlon”. ”I have a friend who went to France with an Erasmus scholarship; she was part of a team that competed in the 2010 Solar Decathlon. She invited me to see the houses. I went there with a group of friends, and when I got back I discussed the idea in Romania”, reminisces Pierre Bortnowski.

”[…] I realized what needed to be done to improve my method and what the effective requirements were – because what you learn in school is different from what you see in real life.”

The first step was assembling a team who applied for the 2012 Solar Decathlon – an international competition between universities, which promotes research in the field of energy-efficient housing, and which took place in 2012 in Madrid. In the competition, the PRISPA project ranked the 9th out of 18 projects in the general classification, it won second place for ”Energy Efficiency”, second place for ”the Public Choice”, and an honorable mention for social awareness.

It was time for the team to be expanded – one of the requirements was for the work to be performed exclusively by students. Pierre was surprised to discover that twice the needed number of students showed up for selection.

Eventually, the team expanded to 45 members, and the initial group became the management team. Even though every one had their precise role in the organizational chart, according to the rules of the competition – 150 pages, covering aspects from the construction site to the volume and minimum/maximum size of the house -, everybody had their hands on the house one way or the other.

”Once I came into contact with a real project, I realized what needed to be done to improve my method and what the effective requirements were – because what you learn in school is different from what you see in real life. I am referring to ways to save on materials, casting, problems that may occur during the work, drawing correctly, explaining everything on a board”, says Marius Șoflete (26), the manager of the project`s structures department, who in 2012 was in his last year of the Master`s program at the Faculty of Construction.

Before effectively starting to work on the house, team members also had to fight the system. ”We needed six months to create the association or the entity we needed in order to obtain sponsorships. The process takes only three days in other countries. Another reason why it took so long was because we were the first to do this. The next team to pursue a project of this type will walk a treaded path and will get it working in four months. And the ones after them will get it done in one month”, said Pierre Bortnowski last year.

Time has shown that Pierre – a Belgian with Romanian roots from his father – was indeed right. Team Bucharest 2014, coordinated by the former PRISPA management group (except for Pierre, who decided to work as an intern at the office of Serban Sturdza, one of the most well-known Romanian contemporary architects), met the qualification standards for the 2014 Solar Decathlon, with an ecological house project, featuring a double-walled façade, with vegetation introduced between the two layers.

Back to PRISPA: it is important to note that an entire department was in charge with collecting the funding and required materials; they managed to attract partners such as Petrom, which sponsored the project with 10,000 Euros, as well as other companies and associations, such as Leroy Merlin, Habitat for Humanity Romania, Saint Gobain, Kronospan, Bosch, Holzindustrie Schweighofer and many more.

All these efforts were fruitful: last year, the house was sold for 45,000 Euros to a family in Bacău. This way, the team members realized that PRISPA also represents a business opportunity, which they intend to exploit in the future.

Whether the business turns out successful or not remains to be seen. But the most important thing for PRISPA members is that the project taught them something you don`t learn during school: to talk to people, convince them and move forward.

“We needed six months to create the association [...]. The next team to pursue a project of this type will walk a treaded path and get it working in four months. And the ones after them will get it done in one month.”
Community Involvement Report 2012
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