Solar Decathlon 2013: SHADE

SHADE, an 851 sq ft 1 bedroom entry at Solar Decathlon 2013 |

Solar Decathlon 2013 wrapped up last week and we’ll be taking a look at a few of the entries. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon is a biannual event in which university teams compete in the design, construction and operation of small energy-efficient houses powered by the sun.

SHADE (Solar Homes Adapting for Desert Equilibrium) was the entry by team ASUNM from Arizona State University and The University of New Mexico. As the name suggests, SHADE was designed for the Sonoran Desert that covers much of Arizona and New Mexico, and it uses shading as a key strategy.

A wooden structure supporting climbing plants and a large solar panel array shades the house and south side patio, creating a microclimate that moderates the desert heat. Other walls are shaded by screens of horizontal wooden louvers fastened directly to the walls. Besides using them for shade, raising the PV panels above the roof increases the panel efficiency by allowing them to be cooled by air flow underneath.

SHADE, an 851 sq ft 1 bedroom entry at Solar Decathlon 2013 |

Inside there is one bedroom in 851 ft2 (79.1 m2). The L-shaped living space has the kitchen at one end and a flexible use space at the other end. A folding glass wall lets the living area extend out to the patio, facilitating an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. The flex space can function as a sitting area or home office. With a sliding partition wall and a wall bed hidden behind a bookcase, it easily transforms into a private guest bedroom.

SHADE, an 851 sq ft 1 bedroom entry at Solar Decathlon 2013 |

Natural clay on the interior walls gives SHADE a modern desert aesthetic. The clay helps to keep relative humidity at a comfortable level. By absorbing and releasing water vapor, it reduces the need for mechanical humidification and dehumidification. On a more hi-tech front, SHADE uses melting ice for cooling. Water is frozen and stored in an insulated tank at night when lower temperatures allow the cooling unit to run more efficiently. The ice is used to cool the refrigerant that is pumped through tubes in the ceiling for radiant cooling.

Learn more about SHADE at the team ASUNM website. If you’d like to build your own version, the plans for the Solar Decathlon houses are in the public domain. Very detailed plans for this small house can be downloaded from the Solar Decathlon website.

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Photographs by Jason Flakes, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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