One of the most fascinating and engaging global student projects is occurring right now. As COP-26 gathers in Glasgow for discussions, at Heriot-Watt a global student team working with staff from across the University are displaying exemplary collective leadership and strong sense of purpose in creative design. But going beyond talking they are turning new concepts into reality by producing sustainable housing through smart construction.

This is the project Team ESTEEM is undertaking to compete in the global Solar Decathlon, which invites universities from around the world to design, build and occupy a full-size sustainable home that can function in a desert environment off-grid. The event forms part of the Expo2020 celebrations.

To undertake this at any time is a soul-defining challenge, but especially so in the COVID environment that has demanded extreme entrepreneurial skills in determination, creative procurement and teamwork. The Heriot-Watt University entry represents the work of a group of multidisciplinary students from every School in the University looking to uncover and present future inventive solutions to current energy, sustainability and climate challenges. Their design celebrates the diversity of mankind is one for life; supporting all cultures, ages and families to achieve happiness and harmony with the environment. The design incorporates innovations and technologies from researchers across the campus, and to make this happen required fundraising and massive partnership support in transport and full-scale site construction.

Join me as I talk to the academic staff, Dr Alex MacLaren, Dr Pouria Hafiz and Dr Hassam Chaudhry, who are supporting the student team and see the students constructing the house at the site in Dubai one evening earlier this week. We start off in the site tent and then move outside. It’s sundown and windy so expect an on-site experience! Look out for further news from Team ESTEEM ahead.

Next week, as COP26 starts, I will be announcing some of the new measures and initiatives in the University as we launch our Global Sustainability Strategy.

Professor Richard A. Williams
Principal and Vice-Chancellor