When you hear the words 'houses of the future', images of floating TVs and robot cleaners may spring to mind. But actually, houses in the future might not look all that different to the homes we live in today; they'll just act smarter.
On Wednesday, Dubai played host to 15 houses of the future as part of the Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME) contest.
Students from 28 universities in 11 countries came together to showcase their purpose-built, solar-powered prototype houses, which utilise the latest innovations in technology.
With the aim to create a design that promotes comfortable but sustainable living, the total prize money for the competition, which will wrap up on November 28, is Dh20 million.
Being hosted for the first time in Dubai, it was created by the US Department of Energy, in partnership with the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE) and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).
Located on a 60,000 square metre plot at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, Sarah Al Zarouni, R&D technologist, Dewa and SDME competition organiser, said the prototype houses will be evaluated over 10 categories.
"This competition has been set over two years. During the first phase students looked at the architectural aspect of the project. Then they moved into the construction phase, building up the technology they needed for the house and main frame. And now we have moved onto the testing and monitoring stage; the final stage." Announcing the competition winner on November 28, the homes are now open for tours and teams will be exhibiting their design to the public until November 27.
During the judging phase, data from on-site sensors, monitors, as well as a jury panel will be collected to distinguish which model is the most successful.
Meet the three teams
Name: Al Bayt Al Kamel (means 'perfect house' in Arabic)
University: American University of Ras Al Khaimah
Team: 30 members
Approx cost of prototype: Dh2m
Al Bayt Al Kamel house is in keeping with Emirati tradition. The team started the design process two years ago, but only started full construction in June. Though the interior is similar to houses that exist today, the smart technology, solar panelling and energy efficient material turn it into a house of the future.
"The whole point of using solar energy means we are cancelling our use of fossil fuels and other means that produce carbon dioxide in air. The sun is always there, especially in a climate like this, but resources on our planet are limited so we have to make sure that we have an alternative source of energy. This house utilises that alternative source," team members Ahmed Abouebeid, Imran Galadamci, and Rui Mtawali told Khaleej Times.
Blending UAE tradition with innovation
>Courtyard in middle of house
>Wind towers to circulate air
>Areesh for shading
>Photovoltaics on roof, car shed to produce surplus to the energy required by house
>Automation system controlled by central device
University: Virginia Tech, USA
Team: 50+ members
Approx cost of prototype: $800k
Team Virgina Tech won the 2010 edition of the competition. Back again with a new factory produced, energy-positive home, the long term goal is to design and build structures that integrate smart technologies, energy efficient systems, and new materials.
With an 18kW solar ray roof, the prototype took six months to construct, two weeks to assemble, but conception to design has been years in the making.
Showcasing this new house to the world, the FutureHAUS team intends to address two very important upcoming realities; a rise in world population (and subsequent need to provide affordable housing), and the need to better integrate newer, smarter, and more energy efficient systems.
This particular home has an incredible water retention system, where all of the water used on-site will go through a filtration process to be reused.
University: Sapienza University of Rome
Team: 18 members
Approx cost of prototype: Dh1.9million
The Sapienza University of Rome team came up with the idea for their smart home in June 2016. Until April 2018 it was only in the design phase, and final construction took six months to complete. Speaking to Khaleej Times, Professor Marco Casini, faculty advisor and team lead said "innovate within tradition" is the team's motto.
"Much like in an Emirati home, we have a central patio/courtyard, a wind tower, many elements that respect tradition, but it is a house for the 21st century too, which is where the technology comes in."
Using aerogel insulation (the same material used in space shuttles), it keeps the house cool during warm weather and warm during cold weather. The PV panels produce double the energy the house needs for the whole year and it has an automation system which runs off a central control, which can turn lights on and off and control electronics, among others.
"The construction industry is the most responsible for energy consumption on earth. In the US and Europe, 30 per cent of energy consumption is due to buildings because they are not energy efficient. This house produces zero water consumption because we collect rain water, condensed water, and treat and reuse the water used within the house," Casini said.
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