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SHADE House at the Solar Decathlon 2013

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The desert sun can be both a blessing and a curse – especially in urban environments beset with a host of other problems such as the heat island effect and pollution. Students from Team ASUNM ( Arizona State and the University of New Mexico) when designed the SHADE House for the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition in Irvine, California sought to establish a new suburban housing paradigm that promotes self-sufficiency, clever space management, and plenty of opportunities to escape from the sun, while also harnessing its energy for power.

The students created what they call a “stick” home super thick natural clay walls that provide excellent insulation and prevent thermal bridging. In doing, so they slashed their energy requirement and in turn the need for excess mechanical assistance. Aside from a photovoltaic canopy separated from the home’s southern flank, which provides both shade and electricity, a unique cooling system was one of the most impressive features. Instead of blowing cool air to cool down the interior, the team pumps melting ice through the pipes to evacuate heat. At night the group freezes water so that, if it’s warm out the following day, they can simply melt the ice and pump it through pipes in the roof, which completely saps any residual heat. Louvers pulled out from the 800 square foot home’s skin provide additional shading and cavities allow hot air to escape as well.

Designed for retirees, the SHADE House is incredibly flexible. One room can serve three different functions thanks to shape-shifting (transforming) furniture and the shading canopy on the southern end that extends the interior living space outdoors. Built with local materials and situated in a small ecosystem planted with desert flora that require very little water, the solar-powered prefabricated dwelling recycles its captured rainwater – a seriously precious commodity in the desert. In fact the prototype produced by the student team is considered a solid, sale-able home which will be reassembled at PHX Renews as a model for desert living.

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