Creating the UNLV Solar Decathlon House: Processes and Lessons

By Eric Weber.

Published by The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: August 22, 2014 Free Download

In Fall 2011, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas School of Architecture’s David G. Howryla Design–Build Studio began development of the university’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013—an international, university-based competition to design solar-powered housing prototypes. The design team’s primary goal was not the creation of a workable engineering model; instead, the team explored how technology can be a tool that assists people to reconnect with materiality, texture, light, and time, creating opportunities for memorable experiences. Students who have participated in design-build programs across the United States have cited them as critical formative experiences in their development as design professionals. Additionally, as a competition that requires collaboration among engineering, architecture, interior design, marketing, and communications, the Solar Decathlon is an effective tool for simulating teamwork on real projects. As the only university located in the Mojave Desert—one of the most extreme environments in North America—UNLV’s inclusion in this competition offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership in developing innovative responses to arid climates, and finishing in 2nd-place underscored the team’s abilities. The Design–Build Studio’s process of creating the Solar Decathlon House is instructive in understanding this success.

Keywords: Design-build, Teaching, Research, Architecture

International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design, Volume 8, Issue 1, October 2014, pp.17-31. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: August 22, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.713MB)).

Associate Professor Eric Weber

Assistant Professor and Coordinator, David G. Howryla Design-Build Studio/ Building Technologies Laboratory, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Eric Weber is an assistant professor of architecture and the coordinator of the David G. Howryla Design-Build Studio and Building Technologies Laboratory. He was the principal investigator for Team Las Vegas, UNLV's entry in Solar Decathlon 2013, which finished 2nd overall and 1st in the U.S. Professor Weber teaches fourth-year design-build studios, building technology courses, seminars enabling students to explore conceptual/theoretical genesis for material selection and detailing, and temporary installation design/fabrication. Professor Weber is a registered architect in the state of Arizona.