Team Las Vegas heats it up at the 2013 Solar Decathlon Competition
The U.S. Department of Energy is holding this year’s Solar Decathlon in the Orange Country Great Park in Irvine, California, from October 3–13. The Solar Decathlon is a biennial international competition that challenges twenty collegiate and university student-led teams to design and build solar-powered net-zero homes that are affordable, energy-efficient, and aesthetically appealing. Each team’s project will be judged in ten categories: Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment, and Energy Balance.
Team Las Vegas is made up of students from the University of Las Vegas. Our project, DesertSol, takes advantage of the Mojave Desert’s renewable resources to produce a sustainable home that is self-reliant in the severe desert climate. Its unique name was derived directly from our team's goals for the project. To us, DesertSol represents...
- Solar energy is used as the home's primary fuel source
- It provides Solutions to sustainable desert living
- It embodies the “Soul” of the Mojave Desert
It's a house that's designed to respond to the climate of the Mojave Desert by using natural resources. It's design exemplifies an ultra-efficient home that educates and inspires the inhabitants of the Mojave Desert through the responsible use of the sun and water.
We approached DesertSol with an integrative design process, where there is an emerging common language between the aesthetic concept, purposeful technology, business and social behaviors. The house is designed with an emphasis on sustainability ethics and satisfies criteria of green design, economic efficiency, and effective construction techniques.
The house is clad in pre-weathered materials that can endure the harsh desert environment. Structurally, we used non-traditional framing techniques to reduce the use of certain materials and create a more efficient thermal envelope. The majority of plumbing tubing is cross-linked ployethylene (PEX) that allows for greater durability and flexibility over conventional PVC.
A host of new technologies give DesertSol's residents an exciting amount of control over their environment. To complement efficient lighting, the home automation system can be used to dim, turn off, and turn on the lighting, even when the occupants are not home. They have the same level of control over the HVAC systems as well. Electrical consumption is monitored down to the individual circuit, giving detailed feedback on how much each load truly uses and where the parasitic loads and inefficiencies lie. By becoming more familiar with how energy is used, both in terms of real-time as well as historical usage, residents are encouraged to save energy.
DesertSol is a house that exemplifies sustainability and energy efficiency. We are extremely proud of that fact, which is why we are pursuing the highest possible LEED rating for the house – Platinum! Team Las Vegas has been working diligently with the Nevada Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to ensure we reach this goal. With a Platinum rating, we hope to serve as an inspiration to developers, designers, and builders in the Las Vegas Valley looking to adopt green building strategies.
After the competition, DesertSol will return to Las Vegas to become a public exhibit prototype, educating the Las Vegas Valley residents and children about sustainable living.