Discover the fully renewable home for the 2020 Solar Decathlon!

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® is a collegiate competition, comprising 10 Contests, that challenges student teams to design and build highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy.

Home Picture


Mojave Bloom creates an oasis from the bustling downtown of Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert's harsh
environment. Designed to be a place of healing for veterans suffering the effects of wartime trauma, the home
connects the resident to their environment through a carefully orchestrated procession of sensory


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.​


Mojave 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.


For cooling, dehumidification, and secondary heat the home will use very efficient mini-split heat pumps. The systems will use ductless cassettes for their added efficiency and very quiet operation. Two units will be used that can operate independently for reduced energy load and system redundancy. During lower heating and cooling loads one of the units may be able to heat or cool the home. Each unit is equipped with anti-allergy enzyme filters to help improve the indoor air quality. The units will dehumidify while in the cooling mode but can also be operated in a dehumidification mode with low speed cooling.


Filtered, ambient fresh air will be vented through the home using innovate Phase Change Material (PCM) plenum energy recovery system and energy efficient exhaust fans. This compact unit will use the PCM to heat or cool the fresh air and decrease the need of air conditioning. It will also use filters to remove odors, allergens, and small particles from fresh air. The PCM is composed of encapsulated eutectic salt that melts at high ambient temperatures and absorbs heat from incoming air. The home automation system will control the improved HVAC system through monitoring of CO2, home fresh air requirements, and ambient conditions to optimize operation and indoor air quality.


Another unique aspect of the installation is the design of a compact unit that will house the peripheral components of the solar thermal system. This unit will consist of a compact insulated box containing the pumps, mixing and fill valves, radiant manifold, and controls of the solar thermal system. This box will be designed to minimize the space normally needed for this type of system but still have all of the components easily serviceable. Temperatures monitored for the operation of the system and the system status will be displayed on the access cover of the box.


The solar thermal system will use an evacuated tube collector that will be used for domestic hot water and radiant heat. The collector will be integrated to mount vertically in a small recess on the south wall during transportation of the home. Two pipe unions on the header tube of collector allows the collector to be adjusted to ideal installation angles suitable for different locations. The collectors could also be adjusted seasonally or to optimize the heat collected for the hot water use needed. The bottom of the collectors, angled away from the house, will be protected with a planter located under the collector.


The home will have a roof mounted photovoltaic system (PV) to power the home during the daylight hours, as well as charge the batteries for night operation. These batteries will be utilized as storage for PV energy production during the day then power the home at night, during periods of low solar radiation, and also for grid isolation periods, such as power outages. During isolation from the grid, the PV system will recharge the batteries in an “islanding” mode and thus allow for the operation of critical load for up to three days.


We would like to thank our growing list of sponsors for your support! We are working with the College of Fine Arts and UNLV Foundation to process the necessary documentation for in-kind gifts and cash sponsorships. Any questions should be directed to Diane Zapach, Director of Development at or 702-895-4292. We’ve mocked up t-shirt designs for sponsor logos, as well as Team Las Vegas SD 2020 polos for casual office wear!


There's always fun in fundraising with the likes of you! You can see our wishlist of tools/materials here, if you would like to help make this design a reality!

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Let our Construction Manager, Alejandro, know if you want to contribute to the registry! You can contact him at

Contact us! or 702-895-4292
Webmaster: Kai Sleight (sleight@unlv(dot)nevada(dot)edu)