Desert Rose House to bloom in Dubai

Desert Rose House to bloom in Dubai

Dementia-friendly, sustainable-energy home complete and ready to compete in global energy competition

New South Wales Deputy Premier The Hon. John Barilaro MP today (26 July) officially opened what is believed to be Australia’s first dementia-friendly, net-zero energy house, designed and built by a team of students from the University of Wollongong (UOW) and TAFE NSW.

The Desert Rose House is a student-designed and built house that produces more energy than it uses. The house will compete in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, an international design and construction competition that focuses on sustainability.

Not only will the Desert Rose be a net-zero energy home in the harsh climate of the Middle East, Team UOW has set themselves the additional challenge of building a home that improves the quality of life for people living with aged-related disabilities including dementia.

It is estimated that 425,416 Australians are living with dementia in 2018, a number that is expected to more than double by 2050. Worldwide, dementia affects almost 50 million people and is predicted to grow to 131.5 million people by 2050.

Without a major medical breakthrough, governments and aged care providers will need to look for innovative solutions that allow people to stay at home longer and in homes built to cater to their complex needs.

The Desert Rose House – named after the Sturt’s Desert Rose (Gossypium sturtianum) flower that flourishes in the harsh climate of Central Australia – is based on a set of design principles developed by dementia expert Professor Richard Fleming.

The house was built at TAFE NSW Wollongong with the input of trades experts and apprentices before being transported and reassembled at UOW’s Innovation Campus.

Planning the house began close to two years ago and construction took about eight months, which included prototyping and testing new products.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro MP joined UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE, TAFE NSW Regional Manager Kerry Penton and other guests at the official unveiling of Desert Rose House at UOW's Innovation Campus.


Deputy Premier Mr Barilaro, who is Minister for Regional New South Wales, Minister for Skills, and Minister for Small Business, said the Desert Rose was an innovative solution to help meet the challenge of the increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with dementia.

“Dementia is a condition that not only brings with it intense emotional strain, but also social and economic challenges,” Mr Barilaro said.

“What Team UOW has achieved with Desert Rose house is incredible, because it’s all about improving the quality of life for the ageing, while doing it sustainably and creatively.

“By taking part in the Solar Decathlon Middle East Competition, the students of Team UOW are forging links between education, industry and government.

“When all these sectors come together to find solutions to pressing issues, the impact is immense – and ultimately benefits our most vulnerable,” he said.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE said the project highlighted the impact that collaborations between researchers, students and industry have in creating innovative solutions.

“The design principles of the Desert Rose align with the University’s Strategic Plan, for research and development activities to help find solutions to some of society’s biggest problems. It also aligns with the University’s mission to prepare our graduates for the careers of the future.

“We expect the Desert Rose to make a big impact on future housing developments that seek to promote ageing-in-place. Concepts from the house could be incorporated in the recently announced Health and Wellbeing Precinct, to be established at the Innovation Campus.

“I congratulate Team UOW for their remarkable work and look forward to a successful result in the Solar Decathlon.”

Scenes from the official unveiling of Desert Rose House.


TAFE NSW Head of Engineering Skills Team Peter Buttenshaw said the Desert Rose project was an opportunity for TAFE NSW and UOW students to collaboratively design and construct the building, drawing on their practical and theoretical skills.

“The project exposed students to new and emerging technology which will be applied to construction in relation to purpose-designed housing in the future.

“This project is an example of how TAFE NSW teachers are at the forefront of delivering innovative vocational education and training to prepare students for the jobs for the future,” Mr Buttenshaw said.

Desert Rose House Project Manager Clayton McDowell said the students used innovations developed at UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) in the buildings design and worked closely with local aged care providers and the Dementia Training Australia group to ensure designs meet the changing needs of occupants.

“The Desert Rose aims to change the way the world views homes for the elderly. It has been designed to be architecturally inspiring, to celebrate life and to be adaptable to an ageing person’s needs.

“It reduces the stress placed on health services by including state-of-the-art features that support independent living for occupants with age-related disabilities and diseases including dementia.

“The Desert Rose celebrates life by helping the elderly to live a life of enjoyment in the comfort of their own home for as long as they choose,” Mr McDowell said.

Team UOW is the only Australian team to ever compete in a Solar Decathlon. Their first house, the Illawarra Flame, won the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition.