A shiny orange vest and this little house was in southern california, being put together by a team of students from unlv for the u.s department of energy, solar, decathlon competition, i’m. Glad you’re able to join us today from the comfort of your couch in this unprecedented time of a global pandemic january 2020 seems like forever ago and a totally different time. So it is curious for me to look back at this 2013 project and reflect on the design, our experience and the lessons we can learn from it. I wonder how does this house measure up to the current times in our present day expectations, but before we dive into that discussion, let me give you a brief introduction of this project. Desert soul was designed for our climate in southern nevada to be a net zero. Solar power vacation home that demonstrated comfort, style and energy performance in the 10 contest categories of the competition. Hence the name decathlon students from 20 collegiate teams from around the world designed built and transported their houses to irvine california, to compete and measure the actual performance. In a simulated living experience, you might have heard that we did okay at the competition as team las vegas. We came in second place, scoring only four points behind first place: team, austria. So we like to call ourselves first in the u.s, after the competition, we brought the house back to the beautiful gardens of the spring, preserve where everyone can pay a visit almost any day of the year.
Since then, we have seen two other unlv teams rose to compete at the solar decathlon in 2017 and 2020.. The 2020 competition is now postponed to the next year. I urge you to follow solardecathlon.gov for updates on the current competition. Now, we’ve all been spending a lot of time, perhaps too much time at home since the shutdown in march. I wonder what it would be like if i had to be quarantined in this disorder house for six months and working from here. I think in fact it may have been a rather nice experience, despite being a much smaller house, only 750 square feet compared to what we’re used to, and why is that? A few things come to mind: the quality of lighting in the open living space, the views and connection to the outdoors and nature and the natural materials used in the house. These are the same top. Compliments we received from the competition judges as well as from the people that toured the house. We must have done something right, so let’s take a look at how they might make your work from home experience better. We all have windows in our house, but not all windows are created equal. You may have a window that’s shaded by your neighbor’s house, so it’s dim in your home office. Most of the time your dining room sliding door might be facing west, so you’re forced to draw the curtains up to prevent the extreme heat and glare that comes in in the vegas afternoon.
In the summer, your guest bedroom might only have a small window facing north. So it stays dark for most of the day, if you’re like me and have been observing other people’s houses in the various zoo meetings, you get an idea of a variety of different qualities of light that can be in your home in desert soul. Daylighting is well balanced because their windows place in multiple walls in the room, providing multilateral lighting that really brightens up the room. The windows are also placed on the north and south sides of the house, giving us adequate, shading and control so that we don’t overheat. The house and in the critical task areas such as kitchen, bathroom and home office, the windows are specifically placed to provide task lighting, so you don’t have to turn on artificial lights during the day. In addition, the rooms are finished with lighter tones to help reflect the daylight in space, providing the balance and visual comfort. We prefer, rather than contrast and glare beyond being a great strategy to reduce energy use inside the house. Having access to daylight also helps improve our well being our circadian rhythm, which is our biological clock that controls our physical activity is tuned to the changing color of sunlight. It can actually help regulate our physical responses to different times of the day having access to daytime lighting in the bluer spectrum, make us more alert and productive and, as we observe the lighting changes color to the red at the end of the day, our bodies know It’S time to slow down and rest during quarantine when we reduce our trips outside of the house having the right windows and access to good day lighting could make us feel more energized.
The feature that we received, the most compliments on was the indoor outdoor connection of desert soul, both the living space and bedroom space, open right up to the outdoor deck, allowing the resident to be indoor, but also outdoor. At the same time. Now that the house lives in the beautiful gardens of the spring preserve it further validates the value of that design as a species humans evolved outdoor. It is only a recent phenomenon that we spend almost 90 percent of our times indoors. Research has shown that our brain craves, the colors textures smells and the complexity that’s layered in nature, we’re more focused, our nervous systems produces less stress hormone and we often feel more rested when we have that connection with nature. Our cognitive function and productivity also improve when we have access to these views. This is why beach, vacations and mountain retreats help to refuel our mental and physical well being during quarantine. People flock to the parks and trails for this exact reason and like many who live in las vegas, i too have a small backyard that can only be viewed from the dining room. I felt the need to get out there and take a break from the four walls to be able to relax the natural settings with views of trees and the sky. Imagine living in a place like desert seoul, where you can just look out the large sliding glass doors to the view of nature and when you open them up completely you’re practically living on the deck.
The design effectively doubled the size of desert souls living space, which is something many people wish they had during our extended stay at home. There is a special feature at the center of this house that were designed to celebrate living in the nature and the rare rain events that we have here when i still work in the office every time it rains everyone from the building will go outside to look At the rain feel it and enjoy the weather, so we designed something in the center of the house that collects rain from the roofs and come down as a waterfall. Whenever there is a rain event, you can even crack open the kitchen window to listen to the sound of the rain and get the cooler to recirculate in the house. Imagine if we could have more access and connection to nature in our own homes. It would greatly reduce the cabin fever we all experienced during the shutdown period. Desert soul also used many natural and recycled materials that bring the extra layers of color and richness in textures that are not often seen in the production home market. We chose to install wall covering in the house because we had to transport the house and didn’t want the walls to crack. But surprisingly, the natural inspired fiber look of the wallpaper added an extra layer and warmth in the house that are not usually seen with dry walls. Materials can ask us cues to remind our brains, the missing connection of nature.
If there isn’t a way to overcome an existing home with little views to outdoors using more natural materials for interior finishes, as well as having indoor plants, can inspire and supplement that connection. We constantly crave, while many of the technology in the desert store house such as the smart controls led lighting and solar panels have become more available in the market. There’S. Still a lot left to be desired in the production home market. You could upgrade to a more energy efficient air conditioning system, but it would be hard to reposition your house and relocate the windows and enlarge your yard for that much desired connection to nature. While traveling is still difficult in the pandemic, the second home market has become the trend. Again. This was the target market we designed desert soul for in 2013 and the reason behind many of the design decisions that we talked about today. But i would like you to think about this. If these are the features you want in a vacation home, why are they not also the ones that you like in your primary residence? After years of solar decathlon competition students have created over 150 prototypical homes, but the design innovations proved to be only very slowly trickling down to the marketplace, as our current paradigm shift is being defined by the pandemic. Perhaps it is time to critically rethink how we build our homes.