All you need to know about the student team that's aiming to shake up the solar sector
Team ESTEEM is a student team from Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh that’sparticipating in the world’s largest design and construction competition, the Solar Decathlon Middle East. The team’s aim is to build an innovative house of the future powered solely with solar energy. It is the only UK entry and it has team members that are from all over the world. The team’s innovative house is powered solely with solar energy and is structurally made from locally grown Scottish timber panels (a UK first), alongside other ground breaking technologies including AI integration and intelligent cooling solutions. Teem ESTEEM is working with internationally renowned eco-innovation companies as well as showcasing its own research spin-outs: flat-pack solar water heating and a construction brick made entirely from waste products.
The home is made from cross laminated timber (CLT) panels, made for the first time in a Scottish factory using Scottish timber. The team hopes to justify the extended implementation of CLT construction throughout the UK, while promoting local industry and reducing carbon emissions from timber transportation. This system also allows the innovators to design for disassembly: the prefabricated home will be shipped from Edinburgh and assembled in Dubai in November 2021.
The home focuses on intelligent selection of natural, recyclable materials enhanced by smart technology to reduce energy use. The core team has over 120 student members, which are divided into a number of sub-teams, each taking responsibility for the development of a particular aspect of the project. This includes renewable energy systems, architecture, construction, sponsorship, social media and services design, among several others. The team meets collectively on a weekly basis to share progress, discuss challenges and agree on next steps. Having multidisciplinary team members allows the team to move forward with design decisions that consider various perspectives, creating solutions that are not only the most energy efficient and optimal for its context, but also ensure comfort, happiness and inclusivity for future occupants.
Alex MacLaren, SDME faculty lead and associate professor of architecture, says: “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, 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 the project truly becoming a reality.”
Jairis Alvarez, Head of marketing and 5th Architectural Eng. Student, 27, and currently residing in Panama, explains: “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.”
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. Chandler comments, “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.”
Mena Sherif, 20 years old, is a Prototype Volunteer on Campus. Sherif says: “I have joined Team ESTEEM starting off by providing my help on site, at the Edinburgh campus on the 23rd of June. So far, the experience has been incredible. Not only am I helping the team with the building process, but the team has also helped me in many ways in return. They have taught me so much about the building process, how to work as a team and have a great work ethic and patience. The team is very diverse and inclusive, which is amazing! In addition to this, everyone is very supportive in allowing you to learn and grow. For example, now I am part of the Architecture/Interior design team and Marketing team and I am very happy that I can offer more help and ideas. I have personally found it very fulfilling to work with Team ESTEEM and look forward to more days working with them.”
Ellie Witton, 23 years old, is Head of Structural Engineering. Witton comments: “Involvement in building the prototype has provided an on-site experience overcoming challenges while seeing the design come to life. This is incredibly rewarding, as most structural engineers specialise in either design or site engineering, however, within this project I have now experienced both. Constructing the prototype allows us to assess site operations more realistically and establish any issues with the structural shell ahead of the competition in Dubai.”