Solar Decathlon 2020

Desert Bloom creates an oasis from the bustling downtown of Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert’s harsh environment. Drawing inspiration from the traditional Islamic sahn, or courtyard, this house turns inward, sheltering the resident from heat and noise, and achieving a model of alfresco living otherwise unattainable in the southern Nevada climate.

Designed to be a place of healing and respite for veterans suffering the adverse effects of wartime trauma, the home connects the resident to their environment through a carefully orchestrated procession of sensory experiences. Embracing the renewing warmth of early morning sun to the east, capturing the breezes off the adjacent mountain ranges to ventilate the home and fill it with the gentle scent of earth and herbs, and drawing attention to our most precious and scarce resource with the faint sound of trickling water, the experience the home creates celebrates the rituals of daily life in the desert.

Its inner courtyard is bathed in diffused light, filtered through the canopy of bifacial photovoltaic panels above. The living green walls flanking the space cool the dry desert air via evaporative transpiration, and the recaptured water circulating through the hydroponic system emits the meditative sound of trickling water through the space. Raised planters offer additional seating throughout the space, the tall grasses swaying in the wind creating a deep sense of calm associated with non-rhythmic sensory stimuli.

To mitigate the southwestern prevailing winds that seasonally whip through the valley, the southern living green wall also acts as a windbreak, planted with heartier desert vines that will stand up to both the wind and the intensity of the southern sun.

The sliding living green walls and operable window walls that separate the bedroom and living spaces from the courtyard are designed as a way of expanding the living spaces into the outdoor volume, as well as an act of empowerment for the user, a catalyst for the healing act of controlling one’s environment.  This ability to manipulate space allows the resident to shift their home to meet their needs, adapting to the weather conditions of the Las Vegas Valley, their social activities, and their personal needs for connection or refuge while healing from trauma.

Four monolithic walls give a sense of solidity and envelop the resident with a sense of safety and enclosure. The thickened walls provide deep insultation, helping prevent heat gain/loss through the building envelope and creating a barrier against exterior noise that may trigger PTSD. Carefully placed openings provide a visual reminder to the resident of their connection to the larger environment and community.

A clerestory draws the eastern morning sun into the bedroom, regulating the circadian rhythm and helping to address insomnia. The narrow skylights that flank the high ceilings allow glimpses of the passing clouds, tree branches, and the starry night sky while bouncing indirect light down the walls, casting shadows that mark the passing of time throughout the day.

https://www.solardecathlon.gov/2020/build/challenge-teams.html

UNLV welcomes Nobel Laureate and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, subject of the Academy Award-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth” and founder of the Climate Reality Project, to discuss the impacts of climate change and how you can be a part of the Global Sustainability Revolution. April 30, 2019 (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

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