Two years of hard work and innovation awarded second place in international sustainability competition in Dubai

Key points:

  • The Desert Rose is a student-designed and -built house that produces more energy than it uses
  • The house was designed to support people living with dementia and other age-related conditions
  • Desert Rose was a joint UOW-TAFE NSW entry into the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, an international design and construction competition that focuses on sustainability
  • Team UOW-Dubai finishes second, based on total points in 10 competitions areas

Team UOW Australia-Dubai today are celebrating thousands of hours of hard work and forward thinking that produced a sustainable and comfortable home, landing them second place in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018 in Dubai.

The Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018 is dubbed the “energy Olympics”, where 15 teams from 11 countries have designed and built sustainable homes that compete across 10 contests, from architecture to sustainability, with the added challenge of coming up with a design that is functional and suited to the desert heat.

Team UOW Australia-Dubai comprises more than 40 students from the University of Wollongong and TAFE NSW, who have spent the past two years designing, prototyping and building a design that addresses not only the competition needs, but also caters for the needs of an ageing population, supporting people living with dementia and other age-related disabilities.

The house takes its name – Desert Rose – from the flower that flourishes in challenging environments. In the Dubai heat, the hard work and effort bloomed.

The team of students from UOW and TAFE NSW have spent the past two weeks building the house at the place at the Mohammed Bin Rashid (MBR) Solar Park.

The Final Ceremony was held overnight in Dubai (4pm UAE time, Wednesday 28 November), and with five of the 10 competitions left to be decided, it was a nervous wait for the team.

After final judging, Team UOW-Dubai are celebrating the knowledge their entrant was considered one of the world’s best examples of sustainability and design innovation.

A team from Virginia Tech took out first place with FutureHAUS Dubai while the University of Bordeaux-led Baity Kool won third.

More than 600 team members from more than 28 education institutions around the world, representing 54 nationalities, entered the competition, created by the US Department of Energy.

Key results in the 10 competition areas that have been judged over the past few days include:

  • Architecture: fourth place, earning a special mention and recognition for the focus on designing a house for the ageing population
  • Communications: equal fifth
  • Creative solutions: second (special contest recognising innovative and commercially viable ideas)
  • Energy efficiency: second
  • Engineering and construction: equal fourth
  • Innovation: first
  • Sustainability: equal third
  • Interior design: First place (interior design is a special contest that does not accrue points but recognises its contribution to overall design)

Project Manager and UOW PhD student Clayton McDowell said that while the result was amazing and the team was euphoric, he was proud of legacy Team UOW and the house will leave.

“The only trophy that matters is the house itself. I’m proud of the house and I’m proud of the team. I don’t need a trophy to tell us that we’ve done a good job. We’ve already toured thousands of public members through and they’ve all been our judge.

“We’ve created innovative solutions that we hope will revolutionise the way we design and build homes that celebrate life, support wellbeing for people as they age, and provide practical solutions for one of society’s great challenges of an ageing population.”

The final award ceremony took place at the Mohammed Bin Rashid (MBR) Solar Park, attended by Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and other dignitaries from the UAE, as well as Solar Decathlon creator Mr Richard King.

The team was all in attendance and UOW was also represented by UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) Professor Judy Raper and TAFE NSW Regional General Manager Kerry Penton.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE said the overnight news was a stunning testament to the team’s vision, hard work and willingness to take on monumental challenges.

“Congratulations to everyone who has been a part of Team UOW over the past two years,” Professor Wellings said.

“For the Desert Rose to be considered one of the world’s best examples of innovation in sustainable design as well as including features that look over the horizon to address the growing challenge of an ageing population is an achievement of a magnitude and importance that will grow with time.

“To step back and consider this was created by the hands, hearts and minds of a team of dedicated students and their academic and trades mentors is simply remarkable.”

TAFE NSW Regional General Manager Kerry Penton said she was proud of the students and teachers involved.

“This project has been an impressive undertaking for Team UOW and to have TAFE NSW as part of that team is a wonderful example of what we can achieve together,” she said.

“I’m extremely proud of the collaboration and of the way the students and teachers involved have focused on innovation technology and teamwork.”

The team will immediately begin the disassembly process, spending the next five days packing the house into shipping containers for its journey back to Australia where it will eventually find a permanent position at UOW’s Innovation Campus where it will be used to further the University’s efforts to support innovation in health and wellbeing.