About Us


The Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME) is a collegiate competition challenges students to design, build, operate solar powered houses. SDME is organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), and the US Department of Energy signed an agreement to collaborate on the development of SDME in November 2018- November 2021 at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park; a competition that will integrate unique local and regional characteristics. All proposals focus on solving the issues and needs for the sustainable living in the Middle East, where high temperatures, high humidity and dust condition. International teams enter the challenge for the opportunity to win prizes totalling AED 10 million.


SDME 2021 will happen in Dubai, during the Expo 2020 activities, offering participating universities and their partners the best opportunity to be part of the most important global event of the year. These teams will exhibit the unique houses they have designed and constructed at a time when sustainability, innovation, and green energy will be in the minds of all the people living in or visiting Dubai.

DEWA is organising SDME 2021 during the Expo because of the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with Expo 2020. DEWA is the Official Sustainable Energy Partner of Expo 2020. Both organisations have formed a national partnership to maximise the use of clean energy and deliver the most sustainable World Expo.

SDME 2021 will raise the prestige and visibility of the selected participating universities. They will be part of the small group of top institutions that will compete in the world’s most important green construction competition, internationally known as the ‘Olympics of Sustainable Building,’ which will be for the first time in its history linked to a World Expo.


SDME 2021 has decided to focus on seven interrelated pillars: Sustainability, Future, Innovation, Clean Energy, Mobility, Smart Solutions, and Happiness. These pillars coincide with the goals of DEWA and the World Expo 2020, and shall be present in all the SDME 2021 houses.


The houses developed by the participant teams must show a clear understanding of sustainability in the built environment. The design, materials, systems, and components should have a very low environmental impact during its whole life cycle. Additionally, the houses should provide healthy and comfortable spaces, and meet all the needs of their occupants, with a minimum consumption of energy and water. The study of the local environment, the bioclimatic architecture, and the passive design strategies are good starting points.


SDME 2021 shares the Dubai Government’s commitment to accelerate the future. In the competition, bright young minds will work together to transform the current and future built environment challenges into great opportunities to generate breakthrough solutions. The teams shall evaluate innovative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and biomimicry, and implement in their projects the ones that assist in making their houses most sustainable, efficient and comfortable. 


SDME 2021 is an excellent platform to test and display materials, components, equipment, and systems developed or improved by the participant universities, or by their research and industrial partners. Innovation will be embedded in all areas of the project. The teams shall adapt or look for new solutions to respond to the SDME 2021 challenges, the extreme heat, achieving high efficiency, smart energy management, low embodied energy, clean energy production, water conservation, and occupant comfort. These creative solutions can include responsive skins, adaptive facades, advanced glazing system, 3D printing, novel solar technologies, AI, smart systems, solar cooling, and energy storage, among others.

Clean Energy

The houses must be net zero energy buildings. They must also be very-high energy efficiency solar houses that can connect to the grid and generate enough energy to compensate its demand, including an electric vehicle. While it is essential for the designs to ensure the renewable energy supply, it is even more important to limit the energy consumption. Therefore, passive design strategies and energy efficiency are key elements. The seamless integration of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems into the building envelope is also necessary.


The teams must also address the question of energy coupling between the energy-plus buildings and electric transportation systems. The SDME projects must prove that they can produce enough energy to cover the demand of both the house and the electric vehicle. SDME is not a competition for electric vehicles but a testing ground for innovative solutions merging community design, housing and sustainable transportation in a holistic approach.

Smart Solutions

The SDME 2021 projects will incorporate smart technologies that offer wise energy management and increase the energy efficiency, safety, and comfort of the occupants. The smart solutions shall interconnect each house's systems and use information technology to optimise its overall performance. These solutions must include user-friendly interphases and dashboards.


The teams must design the houses for people and make them happy. They need to think about how to make owners happy, creating comfortable and pleasant living spaces. The views, the sunlight, the interior-exterior relation, as well as the indoor environment quality (IEQ), are just some of the aspects that need to be considered. The house systems and technologies must be user-friendly, and must give the occupants the ability to override any programmed action. Teams are encouraged to implement technologies that teach, give suggestions or help the people reduce their energy and water consumption.

Solar Decathlon 

Solar Decathlon is an international competition for university students to design, build and operate sustainable solar-powered houses. It’s an intensive learning experience for consumers and homeowners as they experience the latest technologies and materials in energy-efficient design, clean energy technologies, smart home solutions, water conservation measures, electric vehicles, and high-performance buildings. During the final phase of the competition, the teams assemble their houses in an expo area, open them to the general public, while undergoing 10 different contests, the reason why this initiative is called a decathlon. The 10 SDME contests will follow the lines of those in previous competitions, with some customisation to challenge the teams to adapt their designs to the heat, dust and high humidity experienced in the Middle East. DEWA will reward the winners in each of the contests in addition to the overall competition winners. In the SDME Competition, there are three different ways to earn points: Jury evaluation, Task completion, and Monitored performance.


energy management

engineering & Constructions




House Functioning


energy efficiency


comfort conditions

The ten SDME contests will follow the lines of those in previous editions of the competition, with some customization to challenge the teams to adapt their designs to the heat, dust & high humidity experienced in the Middle East. The Organization will reward the winners in each of the contests in addition to the overall competition winners. In the SDME Competition, there are three different ways to earn points: Jury evaluation, Task completion, and Monitored performance.

Jury Scoring

A multidisciplinary jury, composed of renowned experts, will use their knowledge and experience for the evaluation of the houses. The scorings will use the evaluation criteria and guidelines developed by DEWA. The Jury assessment and scorings are final, and no appeals are allowed.

Monitored performance Scoring

During the contest, observers will continuously monitor the houses, and carry out spot measurements. The monitored performance scoring uses the criteria indicated in the contest details. Judges will award points measured on performance requirements that are met or partially met.

Task Completion Scoring

Teams will obtain points by successfully completing the requested tasks. An observer will record the results.

Smart Solutions

Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics

Interior Design

People's Choice Award