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Orange County Great Park, Irvine, California
October 8-18, 2015

Texas/Germany: The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen

Team website:

Partnering across the world with Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany, The University of Texas at Austin returned to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2015 with a vision for its own backyard. One of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., Austin is facing strain on its water and electricity infrastructure. Compounding these issues is an increase in suburban poverty. The team's 784-ft2 NexusHaus offers a solution to these problems in a solar-powered house that can be deployed throughout Austin as an accessory dwelling unit. The house will collect most of its own water, provide vegetables and fish for consumption through a closed-loop aquaponics system, and increase density within Austin's single-family residential neighborhoods.

The University of Texas at Austin previously competed in Solar Decathlon 2002, Solar Decathlon 2005, and Solar Decathlon 2007.

Design Philosophy

NexusHaus addresses sustainable and affordable urban housing in the context of energy and water resource constraints. This net zero-energy, zero-water capable house accomplishes these goals through a combination of photovoltaic electricity generation, integrated thermal/water storage systems, and cutting-edge smart home management. The design of NexusHaus considers environmental control factors unique to central Texas, including air circulation and solar heat gain from the intense summer sun. To address these issues, NexusHaus employs two design features typical in vernacular Texas architecture: the dog trot and a large covered deck on the south side. The ultimate goal of NexusHaus is to serve as a prototype for a next-generation modular home that could be reproduced en masse in an Austin assembly plant.



    • A rainwater catchment system will supply all potable water needs, allowing the house to connect to city water with only a small refill line for backup supply during dry spells.
    • NexusHaus involves residents through a student-designed home management system that integrates traditionally separate home systems such as electricity, water, wastewater, smart appliances, indoor environmental monitoring and air conditioning, home occupancy and house security, interior and exterior lighting, home entertainment systems, and aquaponics and also serves as an educational tool to help residents live more sustainably.
    • An Integrated Thermal Energy and Rainwater Storage (ITHERST) system shifts air-conditioning load to off-peak early morning hours to alleviate afternoon grid congestion and reduce power costs.


    Market Strategy

    NexusHaus addresses three beneficiaries: the City of Austin, the property owner, and the resident. As an accessory dwelling unit, NexusHaus responds to Austin's skyrocketing demand for urban housing by adding density to established neighborhoods without requiring additional infrastructure. Austin's accessory dwelling unit code allows structures to be placed along existing alleys on more than 42,000 single-family residential lots. Many of these lots are located along public transportation routes, helping to also alleviate traffic. For the property owner, NexusHaus serves as a source of rental income to defray increasing property taxes. The NexusHaus resident target demographic places a premium on a location in a city where access to recreation and downtown is important.

    What's Next

    After Solar Decathlon 2015, NexusHaus will join the Solar Decathlon 2007 BLOOMhouse at The University of Texas' McDonald Observatory, where it will serve as a living space and research unit for employees and visiting scholars.


    Petra Liedl

    Neither the United States, nor the Department of Energy, nor the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness for any purpose of any technical resources or data attached or otherwise presented here as reference material.