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How was Dubai's smart autonomous house engineered?

ConstructionWeekOnline rounds up the engineering practices and systems that were implemented to develop MBRSC's energy-efficient Sustainable Autonomous House

MBRSC's model took 100 days to build. [Image: MBRSC]
MBRSC's model took 100 days to build. [Image: MBRSC]
Solar energy is expected to be harnessed by MBRSC's model of the Sustainable Autonomous House. [Representational image]
Solar energy is expected to be harnessed by MBRSC's model of the Sustainable Autonomous House. [Representational image]
The house will be linked to Dubai's electricity grid so as to harness surplus energy. [Image: MBRSC]
The house will be linked to Dubai's electricity grid so as to harness surplus energy. [Image: MBRSC]

The UAE's first model of a sustainable autonomous home was recently unveiled in Dubai by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), which confirmed that plans are underway to replicate the development across the country. 

The announcement follows the Sustainable Autonomous House project recently inaugurated by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The Sustainable Autonomous House's model – which took 100 days to build – is the first to be energy self-sufficient and independent of the electricity grid, relying instead on solar energy and smart engineering systems.

In the following pages, ConstructionWeekOnline rounds up some of the engineering practices and systems that were deployed for the project. 

Design elements

Dr Ali Shaheen, director of the sustainable energy programme at MBRSC, said the building's orientation must be considered at the design stage to ensure energy optimisation during operation. 

He continued: "One of the requirements of the design stage is the orientation of the building, which should fit with the sun path to ensure best performance.

"The Sustainable Autonomous House requires a very short period to be built.

"Building the house model at MBRSC took only 100 days, preceded by more than a year of study, comparison and application.

"During this phase, Emirati engineers at the Centre, in cooperation with our strategic partners, were committed to examining systems, devices, insulation and house management items while testing their interaction to ensure efficient implementation and performance in the future." 

Shaheen said the house has been designed to accommodate all "equipment and devices found in a traditional" home. 

"For example, the Sustainable Autonomous House at MBRSC is constructed to cover planned future needs, and [has been] designed to accommodate over 30 people in a 6,000 sqf area," he added.

MEP elements

The Sustainable Autonomous House model at MBRSC condenses moisture generated by cooling systems and implements management processes to produce up to 200 litres of water per day, which can be used for domestic tasks. 

"In the next phase, we will study how to cost-effectively transform high humidity to a water source by applying special techniques suitable for the nature of low energy consumption," Shaheen continued. 

According to the MBRSC official, the sustainable energy house requires the same foundation of a traditional one, with insulation processes being similar as well. 

Temperature at a sustainable autonomous home ranges between 22°C and 25°C in all seasons, thus mitigating the need for traditional cooling devices and reducing energy consumption by up to 75%. 

Systems that further this reduced energy consumption include a cooling technology based on chilled water, as well as thermal and air insulation techniques in both directions as fresh air constantly spreads across the house through a mechanical ventilation system.

The house also features a smart management and control system that interacts with external heat and humidity fluctuations.

Walls in the house have been insulated against heat, and are humidity- and fire-resistant due to the layers of eco-friendly and processed wood they are manufactured from. 

Insultated roofing and flooring has been installed to prevent heat absorption and avoid the use of heat-conductive material in windows, bridges, and steel columns, thus saving energy that might typically leak. 

Triple glazed glass that contains krypton gas to enhance the effectiveness of the insulation has been used for the windows.  

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Construction Week - Issue 764
May 31, 2020