Brighton chosen for sustainable house build

The University of Brighton has been chosen to compete in a global competition to design and build a house using new technologies and reclaimed materials.

Brighton is the only UK university to be shortlisted in the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial ‘Solar Decathlon Europe’ contest which challenges teams of students and staff to combine innovation, market potential, and efficiency.

Dr Ruoyu Jin, who submitted the University’s bid, said: “The project will be a completely new concept in sustainable design and construction through prefabrication, a living house incorporating state-of-the-art technologies where the roof and walls will nourish as well as protect. It will incorporate the concepts of energy efficiency, indoor well-being, and the circular economy.”

The design, he said, ultimately could help address the global need for low-cost housing, built with sustainable and recycled materials.

The University’s intended design uses recycled materials including old shipping containers, an organic roof that encourages biodiversity targeted at bees and insect life, and living walls which provide food. Technologies to treat wastewater and monitor air quality will also be designed in.

The house will be built at the University, disassembled for shipping to next year’s contest site near Budapest, Hungary, and later returned to Brighton.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Debra Humphris said: “This is a tremendous achievement for everyone involved and demonstrates the quality of research and innovation being conducted here. It also complements the University’s ethos of ensuring that sustainability is embedded in everything we do.”

The Brighton team ‘BrightNest’ will be competing against 14 universities from across Europe as well as one from the USA and one from Asia.

Dr Jin, Senior Lecturer in the University’s School of Environment & Technology, is leading the project and taking part in the build will be School staff plus colleagues in the School of Architecture and Design, the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, the Brighton Business School, students and industry partners including Organic Roofs, QED Sustainable Urban Developments and Cityzen, architectural designers.

Students and staff from the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College will be volunteering their skills for the house build.

Professor Marina Novelli, Academic Lead for Brighton Responsible Futures, the University research-focused initiative aimed at encouraging sustainable economic development, improved environments and more inclusive societies, has hailed the project as an example of Brighton’s leadership in this area.

An appeal has been launched and any individuals or organisations wishing to contribute either financially or by donating materials/other support should contact the University’s Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement department by emailing

Architect and University lecturer, Duncan Baker-Brown, and Brighton-based recycling expert and director of Freegle, Cat Fletcher, two key people behind the University’s multi-award-winning Waste House, made almost entirely from thrown-away materials, have joined the University’s BrightNest team.

Also involved are Brighton designer John Smith, University lecturers Dr Poorang Piroozfar, Noel Painting, (experts in architectural technology and construction), plus engineers, air quality specialists and ecologists.

The team now needs to promote the project and raise the estimated £100,000 still required for the construction and the shipping of the house.

For more information, go to the project website:


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