Passive House a Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

"The Passive House" in Dubai.
The first "off-the-grid" passive building in the Middle East.

The new office building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has been realized in 2016 as a pilot project for the "MBRSC - Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Center", a governmental research entity, under the "SEP - Sustainable Energy Program".

Launched with a lot of emphasis in the U.A.E. national  press as "UAE’s first sustainable autonomous house”, it is the first building to be certified as a "Passivhaus" by the prestigious Passivhausinstitut (PHI) in extreme weather conditions in the “Gulf Cooperation Council" area, and generally, in the Middle East area.

The question whether it is possible to realize passive houses in very hot and humid climates, like Dubai, has already been theoretically investigated with positive response from the Passive House Institute and Ludwig Rongen [et al.] in 2012 through the transient analysis on a simulated building in the publication "Project Report" Passive Houses for different climate zones' "(May 2012).

The MBRSC’s SEP Program, directed by Dr. M. Ali Shaheen, aimed to translate these theoretical results in practice and commissioned the design and construction to the consultancy firm "Casetta & Partners", selected as the winner in a competition between six international design firms invited to submit project proposals.

This project, developed in collaboration with the University of Bergamo, won for the proposed construction system, which is a prefab timber wood “platform frame” system and for the idea of certifying the house not only as a "Passive House", but to push its energy performances as to make it "off-the-grid", i.e. independent of the urban power grid.

In April 2016, the works has been commissioned to the construction company Wolf System in Vipiteno. This whole "Made-in-Italy" adventure ended with the creation of the first passive house in Dubai, in fact certified by the PHI in September 2016.

The inauguration of the building was carried out in early November 2016 in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE.

The office building is on two floors for a total gross area of 580 m² with a “C”-shape floor plan. The energy optimization - that emerged from bioclimatic analysis - led to zeroing the eastern and western oriented openings. On the roof, a photovoltaic system, placed on a timber wood sub-structure, serves as shading screen to a shaded courtyard, which is overlooked by the principal internal rooms.

The architectural design, the thermal envelope design and the air tightness design, the bioclimatic analysis, the MEP design and the PHPP calculation systems, as well as the "project management" and the site and work supervision has been carried out by the consultancy firm Casetta & Partners. The project team was composed as follows:

  • Ing. Giancarlo Casetta - project management
  • Arch. Mauro Bonotto - executive architectural design / executive management
  • Ing. Marco Filippi / Arch. Mauro Bonotto - thermal envelope design
  • Ing. Michele Dorigo / Ing. Marco Filippi – mechanical systems design, blower door testing, air tightness design
  • Ing. Alessandro Palamidese - electrical systems design, special and photovoltaic systems design
  • Arch. Claudia Col with Geom. Erika Novello - architectural design
  • Arch. Eros Marcon and Arch. Mazzer Belinda - interior design

The department of "Turbomachinery and Energy Systems" of the University of Bergamo with the lead of prof. Ing. Antonio Perdichizzi and ing. Giuseppe Franchini led transient analysis in dynamic state, on which basis the MEP systems in the building were sized.

Besides being the first "Passive House" not only in Dubai but across the Arab region, there are other aspects that make this building “one of a kind”:

  • the fact of being an office building. This made it even more difficult to meet the requirements of the Passivhaus due to high internal gains compared to a dwelling;
  • the building is made of a prefabricated timber frame system ( "platform frame") - all "Made in Italy". It is therefore a light weighted "construction" type;
  • a key requirement of the agreement was to realize the building in less than 100 days. Actually, the building was completed in less than 90 days. The works were completed in late August 2016, the hottest month, in order to carry out immediately the test and commissioning "in extreme weather conditions";
  • the building is "off-grid", which means that the PV system and the storage batteries are capable of powering completely all the building’s requirements;
  • the building is a pilot project. A capillary system of sensors enables 24/7 monitoring of all construction and MEP components in order to study the “real-life” behavior of the building;
  • three different cooling systems have been installed for research purposes: supply air cooling or dehumidifying, recirculated air cooling and floor cooling (this one avoided in UAE, as current technology is unable to deal with condensation phenomena), with the possibility to couple them to get the best results in terms of efficiency and comfort.

Here is a brief review of articles that discusses the building.

Future Build

Construction Week Online

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