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2013 Solar Decathlon: DesertSol

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

2013 Solar Decathlon: DesertSol

Project Status

Student Work


U.S. Department of Energy

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Project Description



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 is a house that is designed to respond to the climate of the Mojave Desert by using the precious natural resources. Its 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.
As a second home, it is the base camp for desert explorers in search of an escape, a vacation home or as a place for retirement living.
We approached DesertSol with an integrative design process, where there is an emerging common language between the aesthetic concept, purposeful technology, business and social behaviours. DesertSol is designed with emphasis on sustainability ethics with a balanced concept and development that satisfies criteria of green design, economic efficiency, and effective construction techniques.
It is planned for DesertSol to return to Las Vegas after the competition and become a public exhibit prototype, educating the Las Vegas Valley residents and children about sustainable living.
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. We hope that by achieving a Platinum rating, DesertSol will serve as an inspiration to developers, designers, and builders in the Las Vegas Valley looking to adopt green building strategies.
If you’re not familiar with LEED, it is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Its purpose is to establish a consistent framework for “green” building design and operation. Certification involves an application and review process, and ultimately a rating is assigned based on accumulated points. Points for residential homes come from eight categories, and at least 90 points are required to achieve Platinum level.
DesertSol uses passive design techniques and a tightly constructed envelope to decrease the energy load.
It is equipped with state-of-the-art photovoltaic solar panels with high efficiency micro-inverters. Each panel is controlled individually to offer maximum power point tracking.
A ductless heat pump system eliminates the energy losses that occur in a traditional central forced air duct system.
An energy recovery ventilation system recovers 70%-80% of the energy in outgoing air and transfers it to the incoming fresh air.
The home features LED lighting, which significantly reduces the power needed for the lighting systems.

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