Focus on dementia and energy

The Desert Rose was designed and built in Wollongong and will be disassembled and shipped to Dubai to be reconstructed over a 10-day period in November as part of the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018.
The Desert Rose was designed and built in Wollongong and will be disassembled and shipped to Dubai to be reconstructed over a 10-day period in November as part of the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018.

While The Desert Rose house is setting new standards in technology and sustainability, for project leader Clayton McDowell it is all about creating a comfortable home at a low cost that will promote wellbeing for older people.

"The design aims to change the way the world views homes for the elderly with a house that is architecturally inspiring, celebrates life and demonstrates a house that is adaptable to an ageing person's needs," he said.

"It will reduce the stress placed on health services by including state-of-the-art design that supports independent living for occupants living with age-related disabilities and diseases including dementia.”

Desert Rose is a solar-powered home, created and built by Team UOW; students from the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra working closely with dementia researchers.

The design includes features such as digital tapware. Mr McDowell said traditional taps use a mechanical valve which can be hard to use, especially for people with arthritis.

“Also people with dementia sometimes don’t associate single-lever taps with water. So we designed taps in the traditional style but they have no resistance because they send an electronic signal to a thermostatic valve, which also helps to regulate the heat.

The house also features predictive control. “Most air-conditioner systems are usually based on the here and now – what is the temperature outside and what should it be inside,” Mr McDowell said.

“This house looks at what will be happening in 24 hours, and takes into account elements such as resident behaviour and power prices. It works out whether it should open the windows, charge or discharge the battery and several other features.” 

The floorplan has been designed to support wellbeing, such as keeping the toilet in the line of sight from the bed.

The house - which takes its name from the flower that flourishes in challenging environments - will be entered in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, an international design and construction competition that focuses on sustainability. It was designed and built in Wollongong and will be disassembled and shipped to Dubai to be reconstructed over 10-days n November.

Following the competition the house will be shipped back to Australia, rebuilt, and put on display at University of Wollongong's Innovation Campus.

Team UOW won the last Solar Decathlon China 2013 with the multi-award-winning Illawarra Flame House.

However for Mr McDowell it is more about what will happen after the competition. “We hope to get elements of our design out into the community and make a difference,” he said.