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Space Projects The First Passive Off-Grid House

The Passive Autonomous House of MBRSC is independent of the electricity grid, produces power using renewable energy sources and provides optimum comfort according to the scientific standards

About the House

Built by the MBRSC, the Passive House is the first house in the UAE to meet the conditions of environment protection whilst ensuring optimum comfort and healthy living conditions. It is environmentally friendly and employs smart technology and sensor systems, innovative techniques for wall insulation, photovoltaic solar panels for generating electricity and a battery storage system. It also uses water and air in a smart and state-of-the-art cooling system. It is a remarkable scientific achievement in the field of architecture and sustainability science.

Engineering Design Features

This autonomous house, designed and constructed by MBRSC engineers, is considered the first of its kind in the region. It follows sustainability standards and protects the environment. Using the latest smart technology, the house ensures the highest levels of quality of life, optimum comfort, and healthy living conditions. It is the dream house of everyone – a dream that has come true at MBRSC in Al Khawaneej in Dubai. Following intensive studies and experiments into cutting-edge technology in terms of design, engineering techniques, ecology and sustainability standards and local climatic conditions, the house was built to represent a remarkable scientific achievement – a modern, smart and sustainable architectural model. The house also allows for energy savings of up to 85% compared to conventional houses. It was built in record time of no more than 100 days.

MBRSC has made it possible for all stakeholders and entities concerned with the energy and sustainability sectors to visit this house, which is the first in the Gulf region to meet the requirements of the Passive House (energy-efficient house). The house received a certificate of accreditation from Passive House Institute in Germany, and it is the first of its kind to be built in a country of such a hot and humid climate.

The Concept and Scientific Definition of the Passive House

About the Passive House

While designing the house, the climate and local environment in the UAE were taken into consideration. This environment-friendly house is independent of the electricity grid, and it operates cooling and lighting systems and home electronics using renewable energy sources. It efficiently transforms solar power captured by solar panels into electricity in high efficiency that meets all its energy needs.

The house employs the latest technology, super smart sensors, and an air conditioning system based on chilled water. It also purifies the air to maintain clean fresh air throughout the house. It maintains stable temperature and humidity levels all day long throughout the year. This is achieved through the use of thermal and air insulation techniques, which constitute an integrated system that offers moderate indoor temperatures.

Challenges of the Hot and Humid Climate in the UAE

Engineering Design Features and Characteristics

Innovative Insulation Techniques

Highly efficient external thermal insulating composite systems were used around the house to ensure good insulation, such as processed types of wood and other insulation materials that are resistant to water, moisture and fire, all of which are certified. An integrated and all-new insulation system has been used in the ceiling and walls. It uses highly-efficient non-conductive materials in window and door frames. These materials were chosen based on detailed study of their properties through simulation testing.

This insulation system reduces energy loss and prevents air leakage through the thermal envelope in both directions; hot air from the outside in and cold air from the inside out. By doing so, it reduces the cooling load and saves more energy. Several tests were carried out to verify the efficiency of the air insulation systems used in the house.

Global knowledge-based partnerships

Cooling Systems

The use of power-hungry conventional air-conditioning devices was ruled out from the beginning. Instead, the house uses a smart cooling system that is connected to the house’s own solar-powered autonomous electricity grid. This cooling system reduces the temperature of the air upon touching the chilled water passing through the network of pipes, which is accurately distributed throughout the house flooring. That provides optimum comfort levels, avoids typical condensation phenomena in this region, and allows the air to circulate at a very low – practically imperceptible – speed. All those factors overcome the disadvantages of conventional air conditioners.

Electricity generated by solar panels is used in operating the heat pump, which cools the water to be used in the cooling systems through pumping the incoming outside air into the mechanical ventilation system to cool and dehumidify it. Then, the water is pumped into two directions: first, through pipes in the house floor to cool it, and second, to the fan coils to cool the air inside the house.

Compatibility with Health Standards

Unlike the conventional air conditioning systems, this smart cooling system controls indoor temperature, humidity levels, and air quality to provide a high level of comfort and reduce dust and germs. The filters purify the air around the clock. In addition, the continuous fresh airflow from the outside and the extraction of stale air maintain pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions at low levels to guarantee optimal indoor air quality. Adopting scientifically proven comfort standards, this house provides optimal temperature and humidity levels, ensuring they are kept within the desired range around the clock to offer residents unprecedented levels of comfort.

Efficiently Operating Electrical Devices

The passive autonomous house generated energy is used to operate all the smart systems and home appliances every modern house in the UAE is equipped with, including refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers and others. This energy operates all electrical and electronic devices with the highest levels of operating efficiency. The house can also store surplus energy to be fed back into the central electrical power grid according to future plans.

Smart Technology and Remote Sensing

The house adopts certified modern smart technology, sensors and remote sensing light fittings, which ensure low energy consumption and appropriate lighting that is not overly bright and does not cause eye strain.

Smart technology maintains indoor temperatures by controlling all shading devices (such as venetian blinds) and increasing or decreasing water temperature. When sunlight falls near a window, sensors detect it, and the shading devices are automatically drawn in that spot with the required angle to avoid any variations in temperatures. Moreover, certified programs are used to maintain stable temperatures and humidity levels at all times to offer residents physical comfort. The house is also equipped with a smart alarm system to alert residents of the need to close doors and windows to maintain a moderate indoor temperature and humidity level.

The Scientific Concept of the Passive House in Europe

The passive house is an energy-efficient home that ensures thermal comfort to its residents. It is equipped with efficient insulation materials and a standard well-designed ventilation system. Thus, the house does not require much power for heating, as in the European passive house. It generates electrical power from sunlight, stores the heat, and prevents its loss. Therefore, it does not require much energy for the heating during the severe cold winter in Europe.

The Scientific Concept of the Autonomous House in the UAE

For reasons related to the hot and humid climate challenges in the country, the MBRSC engineers faced a real challenge to reduce the energy used by the Passive House. Houses in the UAE consume a lot of energy, 70% of which goes to cooling. Therefore, the engineering approach adopted in the design and construction of this house involved the use of highly efficient isolation technology to replace the conventional air conditioning devices. Using insulation techniques and a dry cooling system that cools air by cold water using sustainable and renewable eco-friendly sources of energy, MBRSC engineers succeeded, ultimately, in building the first sustainable off-grid house in a very hot and humid climate.

Protecting the Environment and Adopting Sustainability Standards

Through this project, MBRSC aims to contribute to the development of high-efficiency scientific solutions in the field of clean and renewable energy systems to reduce energy consumption in the residential sector in the UAE. This house is the centre’s scientific contribution as part of its efforts to achieve the UAE strategy aiming to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by 2050.

Knowledge for the Benefit of Society

MBRSC offers all the innovative technology and smart solutions used in the construction of this house for the benefit of the scientific community and government and private entities across the UAE. If widely adopted, this model will contribute to the protection of the Earth by reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the UAE. It will transform the real estate sector from one relying on conventional energy sources to one using eco-friendly renewable sources of energy.

Global Knowledge-Based Partnerships

MBRSC engineers collected the findings of the latest sustainable architectural techniques and built knowledge and scientific-based partnerships with international academic entities such as the University of Bergamo, the consultancy firm Casetta & Partners, the construction company Wolf Haus, and the Passive House Institute to take advantage of their expertise and knowledge in the fields of engineering, sustainable energy, and advanced technology.

International Certificate of Accreditation

The aim of the Passive House project was to design, develop, and build a house that generates its own electricity from renewable energy sources and be self-sufficient and completely independent of the electricity grid. The house needed to adapt to the hot and humid climate challenges. The engineering solutions consisted of the development of an innovative isolation technology that surrounds the house and prevents air and heat loss from outside to inside and vice versa. Moreover, an anti-termite treated timber platform frame system was used in construction while completely avoiding the use of heat-conductive material in the windows, walls and floors. Conventional air conditioners were replaced with a cooling mechanical ventilation system that uses chilled water. Also, temperature is controlled around the clock, and the air is purified and filtered to remove germs and dust, ensuring the highest levels of public health.

As a result, the Passive Autonomous House, built by MBRSC in Dubai, received a certificate of accreditation from the Passive House Institute in Germany, being the first of its kind in hot and humid climate countries, after the institute's experts assessed the performance of the house in terms of energy consumption and sustainability criteria.

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