Engineering team from UofL and UAE universities to compete in Second Solar Decathlon Middle East

April 5, 2021

By Betty Coffman
The Phoenix House

The Phoenix House

Faculty members and students from the University of Louisville will compete as part of a team that also includes members from the American University of Sharjah (AUS), Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and American University in Dubai (AUD), all located in the United Arab Emirates, in the Second Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME). The Decathlon is expected to be held in October in Dubai.

Team “Desert Phoenix” will compete with 14 other teams from around the world to design, build and operate sustainable models of solar-powered homes, with a focus on protecting the environment, taking into consideration the climate and culture of the region.

These homes will be reassembled at the SDME competition site in Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. The multidisciplinary teams compete in 10 different categories, ranging from best architecture and engineering to energy production for heating and cooling, while gaining invaluable real-world experience in a growing global industry.

Organized by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and chairman of Dubai Executive Council, SDME is the largest solar decathlon competition for international universities. Its goal is to involve youth in sustainable development processes and encourage them to use their creativity to develop solutions that support global efforts to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

“Conn Center’s intention is to forge partnerships with many other institutions and inspire students to address the global energy challenge,” said Mahendra Sunkara, Ph.D., director of the of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at UofL.

The team hopes to develop and introduce low-cost housing solutions with very low energy bills for low-income urban and rural living. Their design seeks to provide cost-effective, zero-net energy residential space with a low environmental and actual footprint to improve the affordability of these spaces, especially in the current world economy.

Each of the four universities will focus on a specific area in the project. Team members at UofL are focusing on the building structure, building envelope and energy conservation. AUS is focused on smart solutions and water management, AUD on architectural design of the house and HCT on civil engineering, especially water conservation.

“This multinational effort allows us to explore varied technologies and design philosophies to address common problems, with significant potential for improvement in performance and acceptance in all our countries,” said W. M. McGinley, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering at J.B. Speed School of Engineering, who will lead the UofL team group, along with Sunkara.

“World-class competitions such as this are of immense benefit to students as they enable them to implement theories learned in classes in a highly practical and experiential environment, by way of innovative and cutting-edge designs and concepts, which will help to solve global housing issues,” said Tariq Khan, Ph.D., assistant professor in mechanical engineering and team leader at HCT. “Our eco-friendly house will be the best blend of architecture, reflecting local heritage and innovative engineering excellence with a focus on sustainability.”

The project also provides an opportunity to engage the community in support of the project.

“Each of the universities will reach out to the various institutions in the community according to their area of expertise to support the project, whether through technical expertise, funding or equipment. We aim to strengthen our community engagement and give back to society. The project will not only positively impact the community but will also increase the country’s energy security and make it less dependent on fossil fuel,” said Mostafa Shaaban, Ph.D., associate professor in electrical engineering and AUS project team leader.

The full list of teams for Solar Decathlon Middle East along with more information about the competition is available on the competition website.