The 2017 UNLV Solar Decathlon team is a university-wide multidisciplinary effort that includes student and faculty participants from architecture, communications, construction, engineering, graphic design, health sciences, hospitality and marketing. Team Las Vegas is working to realize an aging-in-place, net zero smart-home that is designed to address the functional needs of those who are aging in place, and enable occupant communication with family and social services.  A project hallmark is community outreach and extensive consultation with both the target market, health sciences and housing development professionals through all project phases.

The Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition made up of 10 contests that challenge student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency.

A Holistic Design

The home is designed for people with aging in mind. As an aging-in-place home, the design takes into account all of the psychological and physiological needs associated with aging. Five aging in place principles have driven the design from its conception: orientation, sensory stimulation, autonomy, balance between private and social spaces, and safe and secure environments.

At 990 square feet, the home features a full-size linear kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and flex space for multipurpose use. All of which is wheelchair accessible. A large and comfortable outdoor deck encourages a connection to nature as well as family gatherings. The entry ramp also serves as a carport wide enough to accommodate a vehicle with a wheelchair lift.

An exterior mechanical pod contains AC condensers and supports a solar thermal collector, which supplies hot water to a hydronic radiant heating and domestic hot water system. The integrated mechanical pod makes maintenance and repairs easier for the home’s occupants. Striving towards innovation, the home’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems are integrated into a master control system, designed with ease of use in mind. Redundant systems in the home reduce inconveniences to the homeowner from service loss and repairs. The home’s automation hub is able to control and monitor various systems, while informing the occupant of their day-to-day activities.


Key features of the home are automated using reliable dual-band RF/Power Line communication, with a central hub to handle communication between the user and key items in the home. The home is also capable of storing measurements related to energy consumption and production, water usage, temperature, humidity, and air quality to maximize performance and provide useful data for research. Voice activation services are utilized to further simplify automation commands, and educate users about key features of the home; specifically its energy usage and production, water usage, and energy reduction through passive design.

A Valuable Experience

As a student-led project, team members have gained first-hand experience in designing, planning, constructing, and maintaining a prototype house for an aging in place community in Las Vegas. Currently, there are between 15-20 students who work directly on the project with that number expected to increase to more than 50 once the construction of the house begins in Spring 2017. The team is currently preparing for construction phase of the project, and will be breaking ground later this month (31st March, 2pm). The team are excited and proud to represent Team Las Vegas this October at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 competition!

You can find more information about our team and work on our website/social media

A big thank you to the team for providing the above information and photos!