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Solar Home Adapting for Desert Equilibrium

Solar Decathlon 2013: Team aSUNm

The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a two year competition where 20 chosen collegiate teams design and build a house that is judged by its performance as well as innovation, livability, and aesthetic. SHADE is intended to not only be a solar home that is competition compliant but to start a conversation about how we live in Phoenix, and what it means to live sustainably in an urban desert community.

Role / 

Design, Construction, Marketing, Fundraising, Structural Engineering.

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1. The angled solar canopy not only provides energy for the house, but also shades the southern exposure of the home, keeping it significantly cooler inside.

2. The concept of shade is also integrated in the homes fiber cement cladding, which sits two inches away from the vapor barrier allowing the hot air that builds up behind it to vent up and out. The wood ribs on the south, east, and west facades mimic the shading properties of the saguaro cactus; shading the fiber cement behind it.


3. Flexible furniture creates multiple use spaces that allow a 850 sq ft home to function like a 1400 sq ft home. We refer to the larger functional number as the home’s “effective square footage.”

4. Expansive patio spaces double the livable square footage during 8 months of the year, encouraging indoor/outdoor living.

5. Efficient systems comprised of a radiant cooled ceiling, an ice storage tank, and temperature and humidity controlled zones, maintain a comfortable house year long with little energy.

6. The xeric landscape shows the vibrancy of the Sonoran Desert and create different bio-climates within each of the separate patio spaces.

Thesis Work

SHADE was designed as a modular dwelling. Shading devices, patio spaces, and compartmentalized adaptable spaces can be moved around and resized to suit the needs of the client, solar and street orientations, and lot size and shape.

While the built SHADE home is only a single prototype meeting the needs of the competition, the following are a few of the thousands of possible combinations.

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