Bon Voyage ESTEEM House - see you in Dubai!



The prototype construction phase is over, which means the ESTEEM house has set sail to Dubai – to be showcased as part of Word Expo 2020 - an exciting Global Platform for the university leading into its bicentennial year.

The team are now getting ready and trained to stage the innovative ideas and technologies their ESTEEM house has at the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2020 competition which brings together universities from all over the world to design, build and operate a grid-connected, solar powered house.

Heriot-Watt is one of the 10 universities from across the globe– and the only Scottish and UK University that have been taking part.

Associate Professor in Architecture and project lead for the Solar Decathlon, Alex MacLaren said: “This sort of experience is transformative. The excitement of playing an instrumental part in a project of this size whilst studying for a degree will stay with these students forever; and inform their ambition and confidence in their future careers. I have been delighted by the support afforded us by the university and am excited to develop other experiences like this in future years: as a learning experience, but also as an urgent mandate to transform the ‘norm’ in our construction practices. So, who knows- next stop, Solar Decathlon Europe in 2023?”

The ship, carrying five containers, arrived in London Gateway on Friday, 10 September and transferred to the NAGOYA EXPRESS, which left for Dubai on Sunday, 12 September.

Jessica Haskett, Construction Manager said: “This prototype experience has been the culmination of over 2 years of collaborative design work.  The interdisciplinary working has allowed me to share thoughts and challenges with students that study a variety of subjects and, together, engineer some of the best solutions. Being hands-on with construction work is a professional opportunity - I have placed some knowledge given through academia into practicality, in a way that my courses hadn't done previously. Team ESTEEM has connected me with many industry professionals and offered an opportunity that I was not able to get due to my academic placement cancellation. Managing the team on site every day is a challenge but with the support of the student team, we have ensured that nothing is insurmountable, and we continue to celebrate our pride in the project every day.”

There were many challenges on the way, but the team managed to accomplish the prototype and shipping stage of the project with collaboration and teamwork. 

Associate Professor MacLaren explained further: “Shipping a whole house, in prefabricated components, was always going to be a major challenge. We were working with key sponsors and partners who have experience of this, so we used that expertise in every possible way: from advice about import/export and Customs (a very complex area now!) to strategies for container loading and the very significant haulage logistics.”

Other members of Team Esteem had this to say about their experience on site:

Simon Klekot, head of HR & Recruitment: "Being involved in Construction Site gives me a different perspective of the project than doing my HR and Recruitment job. I learn so many technical aspects of engineering which I even will be able to use in the future in things like my own house refurbishment."

Srivathsan Karunanithi, Health and Safety Officer: "I had an amazing time with the prototype, and I learned a lot. With the house now being off to Dubai I feel really excited and thrilled to see that happening."

Carlos Fitzpatrick, Audiovisual: "I’ve learnt so much on this construction site. From practical skills to theoretical knowledge, simply being a part of the construction has been extremely fruitful for me and the way I think about engineering. Having just finished the first year, being able to learn a lot from older students was a great bonus."

During the final phase of the competition teams assemble their houses in a main expo area, open to the general public, while undergoing the 10 contests of the competition - the reason for which this event is called Decathlon.

For more information visit -


Susan Kerr