HCT tops in EcoHouse Design Competition

Muscat - 

The Research Council (TRC) on Sunday announced the Higher College of Technology (HCT) as winner of the EcoHouse Design Competition.  

GUtech took the second spot, followed by the University of Nizwa. The other two participating institutions were Sultan Qaboos University and Dhofar University.

The competition was announced in 2011, after which contesting institutions were chosen to be funded by TRC. Homes built by the participating institutions focused on efficiency and use of natural energy.

Model homes were installed with solar panels, used recycled water (grey water), chose efficient building materials and were designed to make optimum use of sunlight and wind. "In the end, three of the five homes were actually net energy producers, not consumers," Dr Saif al Hiddabi, assistant secretary general for projects and research, TRC, said.

H H Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq al Said, chairman of TRC, said that it was the responsibility of ministries to adopt some of the ideas represented in the model homes. "This is the first step. TRC will further support getting government institutions who have an interest...like municipalities, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Environment [and Climate Affairs]...to buy these innovations once they are marketable to the public," he said.

Dr Hiddabi said prioritising eco homes was in fact, a collective responsibility upon homeowners, construction companies, as well as the government.

"People who approve building permits need to check these things:  Are these homes efficient? Are they going to consume huge amounts of power when they are built?" Dr Hiddabi said.

He hoped ideas resulting from this competition could even lead to a new building code.

Officials also encouraged the private sector to take the lead in developing some of the technologies exhibited in the model homes. That way, they could become more feasible for the public to adopt.

"Once it is taken as a patent, then comes the role of the private sector to make sure that it's available to you and me and to everybody else," Sayyid Shihab said.

One technology that is feasible is the use of grey water. Used water from households can be recycled for gardening. In Oman, such recycled water is already being used to water city landscaping, but not in homes.

Prof Nikolaus Knebel, head of the GUtech team, said it is a very practical system, but wasn't being used in homes at all.

"It's been used in many other projects. It's possible. It's an established technology. There's no problem with it," he said. 

Sayyid Shihab hoped there would be more usage of grey water in the future.

Prof Knebel said the simplest way people could make their homes more environmentally-friendly was by controlling water and electricity usage.

"The first step is just a bit of common sense and looking at what's sufficient," he said.

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