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About SDME 2021


The Solar Decathlon Middle East is a collegiate competition challenges students to design, build, operate solar powered houses. SDME is organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), and the US Department of Energy signed an agreement to collaborate on the development of the Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME) in November 2018- November 2021; a competition that will integrate unique local and regional characteristics. All proposals focus on solving the issues and needs for the sustainable living in the Middle East, where high temperatures, high humidity and dust condition. International teams enter the challenge for the opportunity to win prizes totaling AED 10 million.


October 21 - November 21, 2021

Dubai is known for being bold and progressive, and aims to become a global hub of sustainability and innovation. The Expo 2020 is a big step towards this. Dubai once again will capture the world's attention, while millions of people from all around the world will visit during the Expo.

SDME 2021 will happen in Dubai, during the Expo 2020 activities, offering participating universities and their partners the best opportunity to be part of the most important global event of the year. These teams will exhibit the unique houses they have designed and constructed at a time when sustainability, innovation, and green energy will be in the minds of all the people living in or visiting Dubai.

DEWA is organising SDME 2021 during the Expo because of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) it signed with Expo 2020. DEWA is the Official Sustainable Energy Partner of Expo 2020. Both organisations have formed a national partnership to maximise the use of clean energy and deliver the most sustainable World Expo.

SDME 2021 will raise the prestige and visibility of the selected participating universities. They will be part of the small group of top institutions that will compete in the world’s most important green construction competition, internationally known as the ‘Olympics of Sustainable Building,’ which will be for the first time in its history linked to a World Expo.


The Solar Decathlon Middle East 2020 has decided to focus on seven interrelated pillars: Sustainability, Future, Innovation, Clean Energy, Mobility, Smart Solutions, and Happiness. These pillars coincide with the goals of DEWA and the World Expo 2020, and shall be present in all the SDME 2020 houses.


The houses developed by the participant teams must show a clear understanding of sustainability in the built environment. The design, materials, systems, and components should have a very low environmental impact during its whole life cycle. Additionally, the houses should provide healthy and comfortable spaces, and meet all the needs of their occupants, with a minimum consumption of energy and water. The study of the local environment, the bioclimatic architecture, and the passive design strategies are good starting points.


SDME 2020 shares the Dubai Government’s commitment to accelerate the future. In the competition, bright young minds will work together to transform the current and future built environment challenges into great opportunities to generate breakthrough solutions. The teams shall evaluate innovative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and biomimicry, and implement in their projects the ones that assist in making their houses most sustainable, efficient and comfortable. 


SDME 2020 is an excellent platform to test and display materials, components, equipment, and systems developed or improved by the participant universities, or by their research and industrial partners. Innovation will be embedded in all areas of the project. The teams shall adapt or look for new solutions to respond to the SDME 2020 challenges, the extreme heat, achieving high efficiency, smart energy management, low embodied energy, clean energy production, water conservation, and occupant comfort. These creative solutions can include responsive skins, adaptive facades, advanced glazing system, 3D printing, novel solar technologies, AI, smart systems, solar cooling, and energy storage, among others.

Clean Energy

The houses must be net zero energy buildings. They must also be very-high energy efficiency solar houses that can connect to the grid and generate enough energy to compensate its demand, including an electric vehicle. While it is essential for the designs to ensure the renewable energy supply, it is even more important to limit the energy consumption. Therefore, passive design strategies and energy efficiency are key elements. The seamless integration of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems into the building envelope is also necessary.


The teams must also address the question of energy coupling between the energy-plus buildings and electric transportation systems. The SDME projects must prove that they can produce enough energy to cover the demand of both the house and the electric vehicle. SDME is not a competition for electric vehicles but a testing ground for innovative solutions merging community design, housing and sustainable transportation in a holistic approach.

Smart Solutions

The SDME 2020 projects will incorporate smart technologies that offer wise energy management and increase the energy efficiency, safety, and comfort of the occupants. The smart solutions shall interconnect each house's systems and use information technology to optimise its overall performance. These solutions must include user-friendly interphases and dashboards.


The teams must design the houses for people and make them happy. They need to think about how to make owners happy, creating comfortable and pleasant living spaces. The views, the sunlight, the interior-exterior relation, as well as the indoor environment quality (IEQ), are just some of the aspects that need to be considered. The house systems and technologies must be user-friendly, and must give the occupants the ability to override any programmed action. Teams are encouraged to implement technologies that teach, give suggestions or help the people reduce their energy and water consumption. 

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