Research team developing model for sustainable desert living

July 19, 2013 by Lynne Oconnor

Team ASUNM, a collaborative effort between Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico, has come together to address the inefficiencies of urban sprawl and to create a model for sustainable desert living that has been dubbed SHADE, or Solar Home Adapting for Desert Equilibrium, an entry in the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition that takes place October 3–13, in Irvine, Calif.

ASU and UNM are located in of the American Southwest that experience extremely high temperatures while serving as a home to millions of residents, with more arriving every year. Phoenix and Albuquerque have become an urban sprawl of asphalt and resource-intensive homes. Occupants often come from areas that are more lush, bringing with them landscaping choices that incorporate non-indigenous plants and require copious amounts of water, which has contributed to drying river beds and depleted reservoirs.

Inspired by the saguaro cactus because of its adaptation to the desert and its ability to survive with minimal resources, Team ASUNM wanted to create a home that could adapt in size and function and adjust to extreme swings in diurnal and seasonal temperatures. The design of SHADE is focused on affordable photovoltaic solutions in partnership with engineers from Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies Research Center who are assisting with the monitoring and evaluation of how effective alternative systems can be in the extreme environment.

Using external vertical screens and a solar canopy for shade, the SHADE home experiences a stable, consistent temperature with the use of a radiant cooling system used alongside an air cooling unit. Team ASUNM is exploring the residential application of to chill water at night to create ice that cools a glycol solution during the day.

Plants used in landscaping SHADE are native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts and includes a butterfly and hummingbird garden. Irrigation will incorporate a gravity-fed hose that draws water from a rainwater collection system.

A video tour of the SHADE home describes details of the design and construction, including the use of adaptive spaces, staggered studs, humidity buffering, hydronic micro capillary tube system for radiant cooling.

Explore further: Harnessing diverse climate and weather conditions

Related Stories

Harnessing diverse climate and weather conditions

June 18, 2013

To make a building sustainable, taking into account its climatic conditions is key. No better examples than the three showcase buildings under the EU funded DIRECTION project. They are based in Munich, Germany and Valladolid, ...

Plants help lower temperatures

February 19, 2013

(—As Melbourne swelters through another heat wave, scientists are using thermal imaging to work out how plants can be used to reduce the severe temperatures in our cities.

Recommended for you

Volvo to supply Uber with self-driving cars (Update)

November 20, 2017

Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars said Monday it has signed an agreement to supply "tens of thousands" of self-driving cars to Uber, as the ride-sharing company battles a number of different controversies.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 19, 2013
Just using existing cheap PV panels coupled to air conditioners would save a fortune over mains electricity prices

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.