Source: eKapija | Monday, 23.04.2018.| 15:50
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Belgrade students' invention in Emirates desert – Realization of project of sustainable houses depending on financial support in Serbia

Twist Box desert house
The project of a self-sustaining desert house designed by students from Serbia is one of the finalists at the most prestigious architectural contest in the world, Solar Decathlon Middle East, held in Dubai. Designed using the principles of sustainable architecture and construction, energy efficient, ecological houses of the Belgrade team are adapted to the traditional Arab culture. The construction of a prototype, which is to be further perfected in Dubai, prior to the contest in November, is planned to start in June in Belgrade.

However, what the Belgrade team has been fearing from the start is currently the burning issue – the uncertainty as to whether they will be able to continue competing at all. The problem is of a financial nature, as they lack funds for the most part, one month before the beginning of the planned construction. As they point out for our portal, they need another EUR 200,000 for the entire project.

The project of the Twist Box energy efficient house for Saharan areas was initiated two years ago at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade. In the qualification stage, the group of professors, associates and PhD candidates from the Faculty of Architecture was joined by colleagues from the faculties of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and technology and metallurgy, making it a multidisciplinary team, which currently consists of 32 students and 12 professors.

– We believe that our placing in the final is a great opportunity to promote Serbia at the most prestigious event related to modern and sustainable design and construction, to promote local intelligence, team work, economy and potentials in this field. Unfortunately, if no interested sponsors, donors and partners appear soon, we will not be able to realize the project nor to take part in the final! Our work so far has been continuously praised by the organizers, but we need to secure material support for the project ourselves – Twist Box points out for eKapija and adds that the funds will not be granted to them, nor will their potential non-appearance be compensated for in any way.

There are no consolation prizes, they say.

– We were not afraid of the amount of work and time we knew were going to be invested in the project, which has turned out not to have been underestimated. We believe that this is a unique opportunity for us to show how much we know and to learn much more through the experience of developing and carrying out such a project.

A special solution

Looking to design a house that can meet the requirements of sustainability and the demands of the modern society, the Twist Box team has put in effort to learn about the local, cultural and climate context, the tradition and the everyday circumstances of the area the project is meant for.

– The architectural solution we applied with is in fact a multifaceted artifact in which a dialogue with all social technological and cultural elements, unusual characteristics of the location and sophisticated technical systems, is implemented. It could be said that the inspiration came from the traditional way of life in the desert and that it plays with the outer tent element as a symbol of protection from strong sunlight, while also securing privacy and defining the architectural features.

The Twist Box house has an 8x8m base, and, aside from the open-plan ground floor, the house also features a gallery with two rooms, and the total surface amounts to around 90 m2.

As they explain, the concept of a self-sustaining desert house is a geometric genesis of a form which is the result of a spiral fluting of a box and its elements. The duality is inspired by a diagonal between the traditional heritage and new options of the future. The interior is transparent, modern, abstract, dematerialized, while also providing a shelter and protection. The exterior is light, tent-like and secures privacy, as well as adequate sun protection.

– With this project, we want to show that a modern home can be functional, aesthetically attractive, technologically advanced, while being traditional in concept, financially affordable, with only a small negative environmental impact, passive and self-sufficient – our interviewees say.

As the house is designed in line with the principles of sustainable architecture and construction, our interviewees say, it requires an integrated approach to design, whereby an entire multidisciplinary team of engineers cooperates on the project from the preliminary design stage.

A part of the Twist Box team
Opportunity for penetration of UAE market

Solar Decathlon Middle East is designed as a small investment arena, where universities which form projects find partners in business or state entities which enable the realization of those projects.

The Belgrade team sees the presentation of the project at this event as an opportunity for penetration of the UAE market. That's why they find it hard to believe, they say, that they would be forced to drop out right before the finish line due to a lack of funds. They therefore invite the state and the business sector to help them.

– Other projects, as well as projects that won the previous contests, have budgets measuring in millions and great support behind them. We are not even close to it. This is not the last Solar Decathlon, but the location is unique this time, as is the possibility of penetrating the Emirates market and the fact that the pavilions built this year in Dubai will remain there for Expo 2020, which is a great advertising opportunity for the companies we establish partnerships with – our interviewees add.

Twist Box emphasizes that, although the project is tied to the conditions of the location in which it is supposed to be built and tested during the contest, it also features some general principles and postulates of green building, making the project adaptable to various location conditions without changing the main concept.

Sanja Sojic
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