NUL Scientists Compete Internationally to Build Africa’s Affordable, Energy-Efficient Green House

Originally Published by NUL Research and Innovations


The prestigious international competition is called Solar Decathlon Africa. The battle will be on who will build the best energy efficient house, with a zing of innovation, in a few days in Morocco. And the National University of Lesotho (NUL) scientists led by Dr Moeketsi Mpholo are part of the competition.

They, together with a team of brilliant Algeria-based designers hailing from all corners of Africa, call themselves JuaJamii. “JuaJamii has already beaten crews of other contestants from all over the world to qualify for a competition that will land on the African soil for the first time in its sixteen-year history,” Dr Mpholo revealed.

The Algeria based team that joined forces with NUL at the JuaJamii is based at the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Systems (PAUWES).

JuaJamii, which, in Swahili, could mean Solar House or Solar Community, will battle it out against 20 other line-ups from all over the world. In the end, the winner will be the competition itself as it will have lifted the best out of the young designers in their quest for the elusive eco-friendly house.

The NUL team will contribute many things.

Among them are the external structures of the house which will be built on sand bags. It will provide ingenious waste paper-based furniture and vases for the house.

It will design and build reed and mountain-broom-grass based interior décor for the ceiling, basketry and smart lamp shades. It will design solar roofs and provide smart home automation which applies “Internet of Things” principles to smart homes.

According to Dr Mpholo, the aim is to “emphasise the African-ness of the house without divorcing it from the punch of modern technology.”

Although the 20 contesting teams will come from all over the world, they are all expected to build an energy efficient house that will have the characteristics of the land in which it is built.

That means the look and the feel of the house should leave no question that it is an African house.

“Being among the few contestants actually from Africa, we think we understand African perspective of a house more than our international contestants,” Dr Mpholo said. That, however, does not mean a free lunch for JuaJamii.

After all, the contestants are battled-hardened competitors who will surely surprise with their insight into African Architecture. So JuaJamii will rely on more than just their familiarity with Africa if they are to curve out a flawless win.

They will have to appeal to all their innovative faculties.

That will be extremely difficult. So let’s see how the NUL part of JuaJamii hopes to contribute to pulling it off.

In the area of Engineering and Construction, NUL team is offering its long experience in Renewable Energy to design solar roofs and provide enough energy for the house. The team will have to assess how much sunlight will be available in Morocco during the contest to figure out the best roofing.

As a bonus, the NUL team will make a structure built on sand bags instead of bricks to balance strength with a need for insulation.

In the department of Market Appeal, the NUL team is focused on liveability. The idea is to bring unique designs based on inimitable eco-friendly and inviting materials that took years for the school to develop. Among others, the team brings innovative quartz-based floor tiles, furniture made from waste paper and waste paper vases.

Other NUL innovators will add on to the uniqueness of the furniture and interior décor by developing and bringing reed and mountain-broom-grass as the starting materials.

“Our idea of the interior décor goes beyond making irreplaceable designs with common materials. Rather we want to introduce exceptional designs backed by unusual materials for such applications,” said one of the NUL Innovators involved in the project.

Distinctive natural soaps and degradable shower gels along with smooth mouth-watering “motoho” [fermented soft porridge] rediscovered at the NUL will form part of the delicacies in the house.

This brand of “Motoho” is said to be “rediscovered” for a reason. NUL Scientists have been able to study the characteristics of a traditional dish that used to be made more than 100 years ago. They then figured out how to produce the same recipe in large scale using modern technology—that without sacrificing the traditional taste and feel which all modern producers have regrettably sacrificed.

As we march on to the 4th Industrial revolution, the house would be incomplete without harnessing the authority of technology. Well, the NUL engineers are bringing along the “Internet-of-Things” ideas to the table.

The tried and tested smart home automation system that brilliantly allows you to communicate with your electronic devices far away from your house using your smart-phone will be part of the catalogue from the Roma Valley.

All this is but a hint into the contribution that NUL is making to the whole project.

But, don’t forget. NUL is with PAUWES in JuaJamii—and PAUWES claims passionate designers and thinkers of all kinds from the rest of Africa. Each of PAUWES designers brings unrivalled influence in all the project faces, down to the finest details.