esteem_solar decathlon expo 2020
A render of 'Esteem' house by Heriot-Watt University in the UK and Heriot-Watt in Dubai. The house consists of a 3D-printed concrete wind catcher, and bricks made entirely from waste products. Keeping in mind the desert climate, the team designed a strategy to optimise cooling inside the house using an elevated sloped roof, and opening windows and shades around the house. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Sustainable homes designed by students who had participated in the Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME) contest, organised by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), are now being built across the UAE, DEWA announced on Saturday.

SDME was aimed at enabling the design of smart, sustainable, solar-powered homes that adopt the latest technologies. The homes are cost-, energy-, and water-efficient, protecting the natural resources for current and future generations.

An impression of the sustainable homes at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, the largest single-site solar park in the world Image Credit: Supplied

International competition

SDME was the largest, most competitive and challenging competition among international universities, with total prizes exceeding Dh20 million. Eight teams from 12 universities around the world participated in the second SDME, while the first SDME attracted over 600 students and academics from 54 nationalities; 15 teams from 28 universities in 11 countries around the world.

Among the teams who are implementing their homes in different parts of the UAE are BaityKool team from University of Bordeaux, France; Amity University, UAE; An-Najah National University, Palestine; Team Aqua Green from Ajman University; Team Desert Rose from Wollongong (UOW) Australia; Sharjah Team from University of Sharjah; and Esteem from Heriot-Watt University in the UK and Heriot-Watt in Dubai.

Their designs were included in the first and second SDME that took place in 2018 and 2021 at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world.

The first two editions of SDME were held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, and organised by DEWA, as part of a partnership between the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and DEWA with the US Department of Energy.

Positive impact

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, vice chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, and managing director and CEO of DEWA, said: “We are pleased to see the positive impact of the competition in Dubai and its support for the Dubai 2040 Urban Masterplan launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which outlines an integrated roadmap for urban development to make Dubai the world’s best place to live.”

He added: “At DEWA, we are working on launching and incubating initiatives, programmes and competitions that consolidate the UAE and Dubai’s position as a hub for creativity and innovation as well as an incubator for innovators, to develop innovative solutions that fight climate change and engage youth in sustainable development,”

The university teams expressed their happiness at implementing the designs of their homes in several regions in Dubai and abroad, in cooperation with a group of real estate developers and international housing programmes.

The teams also praised the organisers of the competition for providing opportunities for young people to unleash their creativity, turn their innovative designs into reality, and encourage them to design, build and operate sustainable models of solar-powered homes.

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Important opportunity

Professor Tim McCarthy, director, Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, University of Wollongong, Australia; Dr. Naglaa Mahmoud, assistant professor, Faculty of Engineering (Architecture) at Ajman University; and Dr. Philippe Lagiere, assistant professor Université de Bordeaux, all highlighted the importance of the opportunity offered by SDME to test the projects of the participants in reality.

They said it has enabled the students to improve their designs and better understand their strengths and weaknesses, as well as strengthen their communication skills.