La Sapienza and Enel, sustainable architecture Made in Italy

La Sapienza and Enel, sustainable architecture Made in Italy

The Solar Decathlon in Dubai is a competition for the houses of the future, made sustainable and self-sufficient by our innovability. Enel played a key role in the competition as technological partner of the team from Rome’s La Sapienza University, winner of six medals

It’s regarded as the sustainable architecture Olympics. The aim of the teams taking part is to build a prototype of a sustainable and energy self-sufficient house. The final stage was held in Dubai from 14 to 28 November, and Enel was on the select list of prize-winners.

The competition is entitled Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, referring to the solar energy that powers the houses in the competition and the Olympic event made up of 10 sports. In fact, the competitors are judged on their performance in 10 disciplines – architecture, engineering and construction, energy efficiency, energy management, comfort conditions, house functioning, sustainable transportation, environmental sustainability, communication and technological innovation.

The 2018 event was organised by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) in collaboration with the United States Department of Energy, which created the competition in 2002. Dubai (one of the seven Emirates of the UAE) is increasingly promoting its image as a city of the sustainable future, and is proposing to use its last barrel of oil in 2075, a hugely important and symbolic target for a country that is one of the world’s main fossil fuel exporters.

An international jury selected 22 teams from the 60 entrants, and only 15 made it through to the final stage. Among these was the Sapienza team, comprising about 50 students and researchers from the historic university in Rome, with a crucial contribution from Enel as technological partner. Taking part alongside Italy and the host country, the UAE, were universities from nine other countries: Saudi Arabia, Australia, France, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Palestine, Romania, the USA and Taiwan.

The Sapienza team, the only one taking part for the first time, won six medals in the same number of categories – equipment functionality, electric mobility, architecture, communication, interior design and integrated photovoltaic (the latter two being “special prizes”). It also won first place in six sub-categories: Net Electrical Balance, Facade Noise Insulation, Innovation in Communication, Dishwashing, Oven and Cooking.


The Sapienza house powered by solar energy

The model made by the Sapienza team is a functional, smart and sustainable house built of wood and other low environmental impact materials. Powered only by solar energy, it is equipped with the most advanced technological systems, including the Internet of Things (IoT), home automation and e-vehicle charging infrastructure, functions activated in the Dubai prototype but already in place when the project was presented on 10 October in Rome and then at the Maker Faire stand in Rome from 12 to 14 October.

The name of the house, ReStart4smart, refers to the aim to emphasise smart technology while also returning to the local architectural tradition. The number 4 is a play on the words “four” and “for” in order to communicate that the project is underpinned by four smart elements: smart shape (the building’s shape and orientation), smart envelope (at a technical-construction level), smart systems (all the installed systems) and smart people (the home automation system that involves users in the smart management of the house).


Tradition and innovation

From the point of view of energy, too, the Sapienza house was designed with special attention to the local context. The highly effective insulation provides great opportunities; in fact, the house is energy positive. As Marco Casini, Project Manager and Faculty Advisor for the Sapienza team, explains, it produces twice the amount of energy it needs. The team applied cutting edge technology to handle the high temperatures while maintaining maximum energy efficiency, but also took advantage of an air-cooling solution that is typical of classic Arab construction, the “windcatcher” tower, adapting it to conform to modern expectations of comfort.

Extreme weather events also had to be taken into account – it can rain even in the desert! Dubai was hit by sandstorms and heavy rain in the days preceding the competition, and the Italian house stood up to it better than the others because it is also waterproof.


A smart, connected house

The most exciting aspect of the project is its energy technology, the development of which would not have been possible without Enel’s collaboration. With our Smart Metering IoT solution the Sapienza house is not only sustainable and self-sufficient, but also smart and connected, as the medal awarded for functionality attests.