KAUST Smart Home Achieves LEED Platinum Rank

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), as one of the leading centers of scientific research in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, continues to push the boundaries of innovation and transfer it from ideas in the lab to promising applications in the real world. Among the important tools that help the university achieve this ambitious vision is the KAUST Smart Technology Laboratory (KAUST SMART) and its efforts in establishing the concepts of the “smart city” within the university campus and activating the unique talents and experiences in the university community of researchers and innovators until KAUST became a living laboratory that receives international recognition in the field of smart cities. In this context, KAUST’s smart home project was recently awarded a platinum rank in the LEED system for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, achieving second place in the global ranking with a score of 94.

live testimonial

This is a significant feat in itself especially since this smart home has been developed from a standard existing home compared to the 95th first-ranked builder from scratch with a compact design. But the KAUST smart home was much larger and had been retrofitted by the university and its building partners, a living testament to KAUST’s ability to develop existing infrastructures to meet future sustainability goals. This is the second time that the university has achieved the platinum rank in the LEED system classification for leadership in energy and environmental designs in the world.

It is noteworthy that KAUST worked with the UK-based innovative consultancy Treehouse, shortly before the outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic in the world, to consult with the university community about its intention to build a smart home system on campus. More than 100 community members were interviewed as part of an extensive and specific research process to develop future homes in partnership with the Saudi Building Contracting Company “Bytor”, and these efforts culminated in a successful “smart home” construction project.

Credential factors

Requirements to obtain LEED recognition depend on several key factors such as total energy consumption, construction methods, materials and items used. These requirements were met in the KAUST smart home where it was connected to a total of 120 solar panels evenly distributed throughout, a set of hydro-solar panels that provide 7 to 10 liters of drinking water per day extracted from atmospheric moisture, and a leak detection system for instant reporting of Accidents in which the residents of the house are exposed.

The project is a collaboration between KAUST Smart, Facilities Management and Community Services with the aim of enriching people’s living experience and addressing sustainability challenges. It will serve as the building block for smart cities that put sustainability, energy conservation and people’s well-being at the fore.

live lab

The benefit of the KAUST smart home project comes not only as an innovative project that promotes concepts of smart cities, but also as a living laboratory to enable technologies being developed at the university. In pursuit of this goal, home technology innovations from eight KAUST start-ups have been combined with a focus on four main areas: solar energy, geothermal energy, smart technology, and architecture. “As a university of science and technology, KAUST has significant research expertise represented by international faculty and researchers, whose collaborative projects and research partnerships we have greatly benefited from in implementing eight emerging technologies that use our smart home project as a laboratory for its various systems,” says Matthew Early, Vice President of Facilities Management at KAUST. This makes our smart home a living laboratory that will continue to evolve as technology advances.”

Three KAUST start-ups provide the technologies needed to power the smart home’s network of solar panels, which power the home’s battery. KAUST startup Iyris, which has now merged with Red Sea Farms, is providing Onyx Solar technology, Mirai Solar is providing photovoltaic awnings and foldable solar panels, and startup Nomad is providing a cleaning solution. Solar panels from dirt and dust without water.

how quiet

One of the immediately noticeable traits when visiting a KAUST smart home is how quiet its rooms are compared to regular air-conditioned homes. This is due to the geothermal system used to cool the house. The construction team dug 18 wells around the house building, 80m underground. A closed network of underground pipes pushes water from the house down into the ground, where it absorbs excess heat and then returns the cooled water to the HVAC system. The air circulates at a depth of 2.5 m in 6 underground tubes distributed around the house with an approximate length of 40 m before entering the fresh air unit.


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