Construction started for Eco-friendly prototype house on campus



Heriot Watt’s Team ESTEEM have finally managed to start construction of their solar powered - timber house on the Edinburgh campus after the Covid pandemic delayed plans.

Team ESTEEM, the student team made up of over 130 students from our Edinburgh and Dubai campuses, are building their house as part of the world’s largest design and construction competition - the Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME).

Their aim is to build an innovative eco-friendly smart home of the future powered solely with solar energy.

The house can now be visited on campus during its construction by registering through eventbrite 

The competition runs in conjunction with Expo2021 in Dubai, an event with an estimated 15-25 million visitors, showcasing cutting-edge new technologies and designs from across the globe.

They are the only UK entry with an additional 18 worldwide universities also taking part.

The house was due to be completed last September but the pandemic took hold and some of the students had to return home.

Not to be deterred by this delay, they used virtual technology to continue to work together across the world.

Jairis Alvarez, marketing and communications team leader for Team ESTEEM said: “When Covid hit we were all left wondering if the competition would still go ahead. But as soon as we knew SDME was postponed a year, we knew it gave us an opportunity to better improve our project as well as to gain new sponsors.

“The innovative home is powered solely with solar energy and is structurally made from locally grown Scottish timber panels - which is a UK first - alongside other ground breaking technologies including AI integration and intelligent cooling solutions.

“It has been fantastic to get construction on our prototype underway and we would like to thank all of our sponsors and partners for their magnificent support.

“We go to Dubai confident that we can get the win.”

Alex MacLaren, SDME faculty lead and associate professor of architecture said: “Constructing the prototype at the Edinburgh campus is an adventure all of itself. This is the first time this Scottish mass timber, using this system, and with these innovative materials and systems, has ever been constructed. The students have done the drawings, placed the orders, then helped in the factory to manufacture but only now, as it takes shape in 3D, is that really becoming a reality. The construction phase in Scotland has engaged more than 30 students from across multiple disciplines and levels of study; and from locals fitting in shifts between their summer jobs, to overseas students here to learn.

“The student team has made the impossible possible during the pandemic; and we are now seeing the fruits of their labour. I am so proud to be working with these young professionals."

For some students, such as Srivathsan Karunanithi (Year 1 Civil Engineering), this is the first chance to work in the labs and meet staff and students in person, due to the pandemic restrictions. He tells us: “I am having the best time of my university time with Team ESTEEM as I had got the chance to meet and learn a lot about construction from my seniors.“

Chloe Chandler, a third-year MEng Structural Engineering student, took part in the factory work at Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, and also on site at the university: “ Team ESTEEM has given me the confidence to explore real world solutions for problems and challenges in the built environment, overall promoting extra-curricular development and confidence.”

The construction site itself is student-led: Jessica Haskett (MEng Architectural Engineering, graduated 2021), is managing the day-to-day activity on behalf of the team and revelling in the learning opportunity.  She says:“ Team ESTEEM has connected me with so many industry professionals and I have worked with many companies- a truly unique experience.”

The team is expected to arrive in Dubai for the competition from October 20 to November 23.

The Team have also launched a new podcast where they talk about how the students found a new passion and new skills as well the importance of digital marketing and sponsorship for university projects. 

Visit Team Esteem crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to cover the following expenses:  

  • Cost of Green eco-friendly, natural renewable Hemp insulation - £5k  
  • Cost of timber fixings and connections - £5k 
  • Cost of landscaping and green walling solutions -£5k 



Susan Kerr