UK finalists from Heriot-Watt University taking part in SDME competition, tackling sustainable housing

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Who Are Team ESTEEM?

Team ESTEEM are a group of students from Heriot-Watt Universty taking on the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2021 (SDME) project. There are roughly 120 students in this group, ranging from engineering, business, computer science, and so much more!

Some of the Team ESTEEM members at the construction site

Some of the Team ESTEEM members at the construction site

The group formed back in August 2018, though I only joined them in the summer of 2020. As I grew increasingly invested in the team, I took on more and more. I was the Audiovisual Lead and Website Lead, also working on the Software & Sensors team for the building management system.

The finished ESTEEM house at the Solar Park

The finished ESTEEM house at the Solar Park

We designed and built a sustainable, eco-friendly, solar powered home from the ground up. We found our own sponsors to help fund the project and, with help from the university, we showcased our prototype in Dubai in November of 2021.

The living room inside our house

The living room inside our house

I’ll go through the journey in chronological order from my perspective, starting from the summer of 2020 till the end of 2021.

Constructing The Parts (Summer 2021)

Vision: a Podcast by Team ESTEEM

We created a podcast to share the knowledge of the members and inspire younger folks looking to get into a competition like this.

I made the cover art of the podcast using Blender.

Our podcast that we released on Spotify

Vision: our podcast that we released on Spotify

Website Redesign

Before I joined the team, WordPress was used because it allowed for people without web development experience to update the contents of pages. The only problem was that people found it difficult to use. This left the website looking quite messy with inconsistencies from page to page, not to mention the unwillingness of members to make edits when needed.

I had been wanting to remake the website, but alone I did not feel confident that I would be able to find the time. This led to the recruitment of Mohit and Pranav, two Computer Science students at the Dubai campus of Heriot-Watt.

The new Team ESTEEM website

The new Team ESTEEM website

We decided to use ReactJS due to its popularity in the web dev scene and to use it as an opportunity to advance our own skills. In hindsight, React is overkill for a project like this; a simple static website would have been enough! Regardless, the experience was worth it.

Made in the UK by Students!

Unlike many of the other teams in the competition, we made manufactured a large proportion of our house ourselves (with the help of others of course!).

Making the CLT Panels at CSIC

Our house uses Scottish wood in our cross-laminated timber (CLT) which we cut and glued with the help of CSIC at their Innovation Factory in Glasgow. Check out the video below to see the process!

Making the Cassettes at HWU

Cassettes are what we called the boxes of insulation that we would attach to our house. These would primarily keep the house cool in the blistering heat of Dubai, with the added benefit of being quite opaque to noise. We used hemp insulation inside of them as it was safe to handle for us and also sustainable because it’s made from plant fibres.

Red insulation cassettes attached to our house

Red insulation cassettes attached to our house

We ended up having some issues with these cassettes. They were made to be easily packed into a container for shipping and simply attached/removed from the house; only the former held true for us.

Me cutting OSB for the cassettes of our house

Me cutting the backs of the cassettes of our house

We used the Rothoblaas LOCK T system to attach the cassettes to the house, but this was very tricky to do as we were using the LOCK T beyond its intended purpose. Think of it like trying to plug an HDMI cable into the back of a TV without looking.