HCT’s GreenNest Eco House merges traditional architecture and modern technology, says Alvin Thomas.
There are many ways one can describe a dream house. But the students and technical staff at the Higher College of Technology have a dream that differs from most people’s – a self-sustaining house with a zero-carbon footprint.
The “house of the future”, as they describe it, contains everything from solar panels to energy-efficient appliances. I am getting an insight into the type of house we could one day call home, with a guided tour of the GreenNest house at the college campus in Al Khuwair, Muscat. There are four other GreenNest houses around the country at different colleges, including one at Sultan Qaboos University. The project is funded by the Research Council of Oman.
Crafted with traditional lines and curves, the HCT GreenNest may not seem very different from your average Omani house at first glance. But looks can be deceptive – the GreenNest Eco House is a thoroughly modern home from the ground up.
There are 76 solar panels on the terrace, which have been designed to act like an umbrella to reduce the effects of the sun on the house while improving output.
The results are evident when you step inside the three-bedroom, multi-storey house. The temperature is a steady, cool 24 degrees.
My guide, Muna al Farsy, project manager of the HCT GreenNest, tells me: “Our house produces enough power to sustain itself at any given time. We even supply power to the grid on a daily basis.”
The 76 panels feed 3.2 MW of electricity back to the grid in a month. That is enough to power three average-sized houses for the same period. This self-production of power and supplying it back to the national grid could be a blueprint for Oman’s energy future.
During our tour, I also stumble upon some guests – a sparrow and its chicks nesting under the solar panels – further assuring its green credentials.
The house also incorporates solar heaters, advanced Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) cooling systems that increase ventilation to 50 to 60 per cent at any given time. They use heat exchange technology and a grey-water filtration system to recycle sewage water from the house, which can then be used for irrigation.
The 396-square-metre house is built using newly adopted Nudura blocks – a type of insulated material that aims to reduce the effects of the sun on the inside while providing superior load-bearing strengths using a combination of concrete and steel along with insulation.
“One of the milestones we achieved in the project was receiving the approval for new building materials,” Muna says. “It allowed us to complete the house in five months, as opposed to the usual six or seven months.”
The house has a master bedroom, a guest bedroom, a child’s bedroom, a majlis and kitchen and three bathrooms.
The GreenNest Eco House is also home to a variety of plants such as lemongrass, tomatoes, carrots, berries and papaya, among others. However, the highlight has to be the green wall, an eight-metre tall wall of shrubs growing on the side of the house. By the end of the tour, it’s clear the future isn’t a bad place to be, provided we nest in an Eco House such as this. For now, however, there’s only one drawback – its RO120,000 price tag.
* Check out hctgreennest.com