SDME 2018

The first Solar Decathlon Middle East, which DEWA organised for the first time in the Middle East and Africa, was a great success. It attracted over 600 students and academics, comprising 54 nationalities, and 15 teams from 28 universities in 11 countries, reflecting the UAE's position as a hub for creativity and an incubator for innovators. Dubai’s hosting of the first and second SDME, with total prizes exceeding AED20 million, reflects the Emirate’s position as a city of the future that embraces sustainable solutions and provides space for creative youth from all over the world to innovate. Dubai Electricity & Water Authority organised SDME 2018 at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in 14-29 November, 2018.

SDME 2018 Website

SDME 2018 Houses: unique and non-conventional technologies

1. Team Virginia Tech

Intelligent shower water recycling system

This house incorporates a ‘closed-loop’ shower water recycling system equipped with a smart system that filters, purifies, reheats, and then recirculates the water while the users are taking their shower. This system includes a water opacity sensor for detecting if its quality is enough to enter the cleaning process, micro filters, ultraviolet filtration, and heat exchanger reheating. This real-time purification system can save up to 90% of water and 80% of energy compared to a standard shower.

Modularity and industrialize construction.

The team conceived and constructed this house using advanced prefabrication methods, using lessons learned from automotive and aircraft manufacturing. The industrialized construction has many advantages as a fast time of assembling, fewer materials waste, less water use, more accuracy, as well as less pollution, and more safety on the construction site.

Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).

The entryway window of the house has a glass that incorporates high transparency photovoltaic cells. This glass permits the visual connection with the exterior and provides 104 Wp with an efficiency of 8.8%. With its excellent thermal performance (G- value of 0.54), this glass is an excellent example of how the BIPV elements can efficiently replace construction materials and contribute to the buildings' aesthetic.

Thermal Load Shifting using Phase Change Materials (PCM).

The house ceiling cavity is lined with PCM mats for load shifting and balancing energy supply and demand. PCM can store and release

large amounts of thermal energy. In the house, it acts as a thermal battery that helps to keep the living spaces on the comfort range temperature without the use of conventional energy sources.

2. Team UOW

Thermal storage tank with Phase Change Material (PCM)

The house thermal storage system consists of two tanks with water and 169 tubes filled with PCM (salt hydrate) and has a total effective storage capacity of 35 kWh. An air-to-water heat pump chills water to 10°C and charges the PCM tanks at night when the heat pump reaches its highest efficiency. During the day when cooling is required, a pump circulates water through the PCM tanks to two fan coils supplying cool air to the living spaces. This system permits to shift the HVAC load from the day to the night and to give a better response to the grid, avoiding the peak periods.

Solar Roof Tiles.

These Building Integrated Photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) roof tiles replace traditional roof shingles and provide electricity and hot water. This system combines the functionality if roof tiles, photovoltaic modules, and solar thermal collectors and offer additional advantages related to energy savings. The water that runs through the channels under the roof tiles removes the heat caused by solar radiation and bringing three benefits: the generation of domestic hot water, the increment of the photovoltaic cells' efficiency, and the reduction of the indoor thermal loads.

Model predictive control (MPC).

MPC is used to maximize the amount of renewable energy used within the house. By predicting over the next 24 hours, various factors such as the weather, power output of the solar PV system, amount of charge in the battery, and the occupant's energy habits, the building management system (BMS) can optimize the use of energy within the home.

3. Team Baitykool

Innovative solution for Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).

In this house, photovoltaic modules are integrated into the facades and in a retractable shading system that covers the patio. In both cases, the team used highly efficient frameless photovoltaic modules with biomimetic solar cells.

Water cooling through radiative sky cooling (RSC).

During the night, the water is circulated through thermal radiator panels to cool it down below the outdoor temperature using the sky as a heat sink. During the day, the cooled water will be used to cool down the indoor spaces using radiant panels. This technique helps to reduce energy consumption by lowering the cooling requirement of the house.

Aquaponic system.

This system combines conventional aquaculture (raising fish and other aquatic animals in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. The water is recirculated from one system to the other. The fish generate nutrients for plants. The plants filter the water in which the fish live. This method of cultivation allows the production of food with a savings of 90% of water and enhance the house's ambient with a big aquarium.

Ecological Water Management.

The wastewater recycling system used included two ecological processes, which are: Lombrifiltration, which involves waste filtration through earthworms, and Bio- Solar-Purification (water filtration by UV from the sun). The treated water is used in the irrigation system. This system also produces nutrients for plants and fish.

4. Team EFdEN

Smart control system with a gamified app

The House’s control system seamlessly integrates all the house appliances and equipment, which can be accessed and controlled remotely using the phone or web. The team developed and gamification-based app that provides incentives and rewards to energy-efficient and sustainable living actions. This tool aims to increase occupants’ motivation for saving energy and encouraging energy consumption behavioral changes.

5. Team Sapienza

Advanced Thermal Insulation

The main component of the house thermal envelope is fiber-reinforced aerogel blankets, a high thermal resistance nano-porous insulating material (λ = 0.013 W/mK). The team also used this material to reduce the thermal bridges in and around the windows frames. The aerogel blankets are water and fireproof, and they have a very low embodied energy, only 53.9 MJ/kg (EPS: 88.6 MJ/kg and PUR foams: 101.5 MJ/kg).

Smart HVAC system.

A cutting-edge high-efficiency heat pump powers the house HVAC system for the supply of air-conditioning systems. This HVAC system has advanced capabilities of thermal energy recovery, air re-circulation, monitoring, and control in all the indoor spaces. This system can also provide domestic hot water, which is an efficient solution when it is not possible to use solar collectors, as in high-rise buildings. Its smart control system uses the temperature, humidity, and CO2 sensors measurements to always guarantee the maximum health and comfort conditions. This smart control has self-learning capabilities and integrates all house systems, permitting the automatic response to the internal needs, the external climate parameters, and the weather forecast, acting on the operation of the house's equipment, windows, the lighting fixtures, and shading devices.

6. Team Virtue

Sustainable interactive web app

The app allows residents to check their sustainability status compared to the average neighbour and compare the complex to other LINQ complexes on an urban scale. Inhabitants can view their energy and water usage in detail using the web app depicting graphs and other figures. They can also review the individual consumption and operational status of appliances, equipment, and systems. They can also control lighting and other systems on the app to encourage social sustainability by allowing inhabitants of the apartment complex to communicate with each other through a digital blackboard easily.

Bio-based ventilated facade.

The team developed a tridimensional shape for the tiles for the house ventilated facade. These tiles were produced by molding NPSP bio-based composite. The tiles avoid direct solar radiation over the house thermal envelope, and the ventilated cavity reduces the transmission of heat from tiles, reducing the thermal gains through the walls. The NPSP bio- composite is a mix of materials that include flask, grass, jeans textiles, resin, and bauxite. The shape of the tridimensional tiles is based on the union of triangles; the result is a stable shape that withstands wind loads. Once assembled, the bottom of the pieces remains open to prevent that rainwater or sand can be build up in them.

7. Team TDIS

Advanced Insulation System

The house's interior is protected by a continuous thermal envelope the includes Vacuum Insulation Panels (Vip). These panels give outstanding thermal resistance for the thinnest possible solution. They are considered the next generation of insulation materials.

Thermoelectric cooling chip system.

This house conditioning system is highly efficient due to how the thermal energy is transmitted (hydronic radiant ceilings and floors) and efficient production of cold water. The team designed a cooling system based on thermoelectric cooling chips (TEC Chip) without moving parts and that not need refrigerants. These chips use the Peltier effect to create a thermal flux at the junction of two different types of materials.

Atmospheric Water Generation.

The team designed a solar-powered water generation device based on Peltier technology. With the energy coming from a PV panel, the Peltier element cools an aluminum block to below the ambient dew point.

8. Team KNOW HOWse

Design Flexibility-multiplication of space

Space flexibility is one of the main concepts of this house. Its interior can open up, with spatial and visual connections between all the areas, inclusive between the ground and the first floor, or compartmented in zones, providing privacy when required by the occupants. Additionally, the house has an innovative retractable floor that permits add an extra room, splitting the Majlis double-height and creating a separation between the first and ground floors.

9. Team Aqua Green

Active Cool Envelope

The team designed an innovative "active cool envelop" solution to reduce the exterior thermal gains, by cooling the house envelope using evaporative cooling equipment. The team used double-layer prefabricated concrete panels with a 5-cm cavity to construct the house walls and prefabricate hollow-core slabs for the ceiling. Cooled air produced by the evaporative cooler is circulated through the cavities of the house envelope, forming a heat barrier that reduces solar heat transmission. The house has double sets of windows to permit that the cooled air also passes between the exterior and interior windows and reduce the glazing heat gains. The team estimates a reduction of 50% of the heat transmission and up to 65% of the house cooling load. The house has also two split air conditioners to deal with the internal thermal gains and any external thermal loads no eliminated by the "active cool envelope."

10. Team KSU

Date palm trees fibers as a building insulation material

Team KSU has received a patent for using date palm trees surface fibres as a new type of building insulation material. These fibres provide suitable thermal insulation with low cost and no harm to the environment or human beings. Its utilization also supports reducing date palm trees waste. The thermal conductivity ranges between 0.0475 and 0.0697 W/m-K.

11. Team Jeel

REACT system

Instillation of the REACT system can cap the power at the DC level of each inverter. The JEEL automation system ensures the batteries start charging when the REACT power reaches the capping stage to maximize the use of the lost energy. This strategy ensures 14kWh of the capped energy is stored into the battery and re-used during the evening and night period.

12. Team AURAK

Radiant cooling and thermal mass

The house’s prefabricated concrete walls, floors, and ceilings have a network of small-diameter pipes that is cover by interior plaster. The system circulates cooling water through the pipes to absorb heat from within the conditioned area. This cooling system provides uniform cooling, produces no noise, has no visible components, and has a low energy consumption (smaller HP required, higher water temperature). The thermal storage capacity (thermal mass) of the concrete maximizes the effect of the radiant cooling. The cooled concrete continues adsorbing the heat even when the system if off, thus reducing, even more, the energy consumption.

13. Team MizanHome

Camel Triple Eyelids

The team used a biomimicry approach to develop the "camel triple-eyelid" concept. Biomimicry is the imitation or inspiration of the systems, models, or elements of nature to solve problems. As the camel eyelid, this house envelope is three differentiated layers conceived to maintain the indoor comfort and reduce the HVAC system consumption. The house´s "mashrabiya" is also based on camel triple- eyelid. They control the sunlight, permit the cross-ventilation, and provide extra protection during the sandstorms.

14. Team ORA

HYBRID BARJEEL with the use of Phase Change Materials (PCM)

This house has an innovative roof based on a hybrid wind tower, called Barjeel. This roof acts as a channel for fresh air intake and dust filter. The incoming air is passively cooled, using the Phase Change Materials (PCM). The cooled air reaches the indoor ambient after passes through an interior green wall (hydroponics system). This green wall has NASA-graded plants that are known for eliminating particles and improving the indoor air quality.


Lightweight dry construction

The house is constructed using a dry construction system that is its name suggests no require water, cement, or traditional bounding substances. All the structural, exterior and interior components are fixed using connectors. That makes then easy to replace, reuse, and recycle. Other advantages of the dry construction are ease of installation, faster assembly, use of fewer materials, no waste, and facilities to get better thermal and acoustical performance.

Indoor vertical farm and atmospheric water generation.

This house aims to provide an immersive agricultural tourism experience in the desert, in line with the UAE's vision of investment in food security and rural development. Its occupants can grow fruit and vegetables on an indoor vertical farm. The house also includes an atmospheric water generation system to overcome the challenges of watering the indoor farm in an off-grid situation.