Connecting Clean Energy and Education: UNLV Solar Decathlon
Initiated in 2002 and designed to highlight the inventiveness and creativity of architectural students around the world, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a showcase of sustainability and innovation. Every other year, students from universities across the globe participate to conceptualize, design, and build the future of earth-friendly construction. Incorporating the latest eco-friendly techniques, these projects serve to demonstrate as a proof of concept what can be accomplished using a variety of methods and integrating the surrounding environment. The Solar Decathlon is more than a competition. It is a unique learning experience for consumers and homeowners as they discover the latest technologies and materials in energy-efficient design, clean energy technologies, smart home solutions, water conservation measures, electric vehicles, and high-performance buildings.
Of the many teams that vie for a spot in the competition, the program from UNLV has been one of the most successful at demonstrating that sustainable building can not only be functional, but stylish. Looking at their most recent build, “Mojave Bloom”, it is clear that the surrounding environment has influenced the home’s design. This build aims to be an energy-neutral or “autonomous” home able to thrive in the harsh Mojave Desert climate and operate independent of all public utility services. Mojave Bloom combines new and emerging off-shelf renewable energy systems, technologies, products, and appliances that promote sustainability. This 400- to 600-square-foot smart solar home has been conceptualized as a place of healing and respite for military veterans suffering the adverse mental health impacts from wartime trauma. There is a significant need for veteran housing in the Las Vegas Valley. Three student team members are military veterans, and the students will also gather feedback during focus groups with the community to aid design plans.