For anyone wanting to see what a city of truly sustainable homes would look like, the grounds of Mohammad Bin Rashid Solar Park offer hope in myriad forms. On this innovative soil, the UAE is once again demonstrating why tomorrow’s sustainability plan needs to be built today through the launch of the first Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME), an initiative that could well be a game changer for the region.
An international competition for university students from around the world, the Solar Decathlon, with a total prize money of Dh10 million, challenges them to design, build and operate sustainable models of solar-powered homes, with a focus on protecting the environment, and taking into consideration the climatic conditions of the region.
The competition is fostering young minds to get off the worn path of over-utilisation of natural resources and revert to celebrating sustainability as a way of life.
As societies across the world stagger under the weight of rampant unsustainable growth and dwindling natural resources, what will stabilise them is a head start in sustainability solutions. And who better to provide this head start than the youth of today?
The smart houses are not mere three-dimensional imaginary possibilities; they are real, buildable and most important, absolutely inhabitable. They are also cost-effective, energy-efficient, with meticulous attention to details about living conditions of house members, and they give recycled material a true shot at functional dignity and longevity.
As allies of the environment, these homes are reminders of the way mankind once lived, in accordance with nature rather than in conflict with it.
Another remarkable aspect of the Solar Decathlon initiative is the fact that smart homes are open to registered visitors as tactile, immersive experiences. This interactivity is a critical factor as people see, touch and move around and inside their homes potentially undergoing an attitudinal transformation that will help them realise that it is not just a ‘comfortable lifestyle’ that they must seek, but also a responsible, sustainable one. Because it is becoming clearer by the day that the only option the world now is left with is to move towards a restorative, re-balanced future.
Initiatives such as the Solar Decathlon reeducate people on how with a conscious, and conscionable, intention, along with a practical application of the knowledge of sustainable principles, we can overcome our present natural resource crunch. We do not have to wait for tomorrow to build that vision. We can start today because there really is no more time to be lost in fully reclaiming the imperatives of sustainability, and facilitate the change that will pull us back from the brink of facing an environmental meltdown.