Students from the University of Wollongong (UoW) and TAFE NSW have designed and built what is believed to be Australia’s first dementia-friendly, net-zero energy house.

The Desert Rose House will compete in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, which is an international design and construction competition focusing on sustainability. The house is named after the Sturt’s Desert Rose flower that flourishes in the hot Central Australian climate.

Not only will the project function as a net-zero energy home in the harsh climate of the Middle East, but the team has also tackled the challenge of designing a home for people with age-related disabilities including dementia. It has been designed based on a set of principles developed by dementia expert Professor Richard Fleming.

This decision was inspired by the fact that an estimated 425,416 Australians are suffering from dementia at present, with this number expected to double by 2050.

The house was built at TAFE NSW Wollongong with the input of trade experts and apprentices, before it was transported and reassembled at UoW’s Innovation Campus.

According to Desert Rose House project manager Clayton McDowell, the students used innovations developed at UoW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) in the building’s design, and worked closely with local aged care providers and Dementia Training Australia to ensure the design could meet the changing needs of occupants.

“The Desert Rose aims to change the way the world views homes for the elderly,” says McDowell.

“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.”