Las Vegas: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas team for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 set out to design a home that would appeal to aging empty nesters who would like to retire in sunny Las Vegas. To learn which features their target market desired, the students went straight to the source, holding an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) focus group and using virtual reality to walk people through the home. Called Sinatra Living, their project combines the architecture of the past with technologies of the future. Many features, such as the open layout, adjustable countertops and shelves, slip-resistant flooring, and fall detection sensors, make the house safe and comfortable for any resident with mobility, visual, or cognitive impairments.
Team Las Vegas aims to create an energy-efficient and health-conscious home for active aging citizens of Las Vegas and beyond. With its open layout and “flex” spaces, the design creates accessible and comfortable indoor and outdoor spaces that encourage physical activity and socializing. Sinatra Living balances quality of life with the thoughtful use of resources, with systems that promote both efficiency and comfort. To keep the cost of operating the home low, the home reuses water and runs on clean solar energy, which can also be stored in the home’s onsite battery. Wireless integrated technology not only optimizes energy use, but helps the home’s occupants stay connected with loved ones and caregivers, so they can remain safe and independent as long as possible.
Features and Technologies
- Handicapped accessible features, such as adjustable kitchen countertops and shelves allow for ease of access and reduce the physical strain of daily tasks.
- Simple circulation paths allow for and encourage movement.
- A fall detection and alert system can facilitate emergency response by alerting caregivers and unlocking doors automatically.
- A home automation application with Amazon Alexa integration connects occupants with security, heating and cooling, lighting control, and more, both at home and away.
- A combination of deep overhangs and an adjustable wall partition provide shading during the summer and maximize passive heating in the winter.
- A modular solar thermal powerhouse uses evacuated tube solar collectors to heat water for both domestic use and radiant floor heating.
- Energy-efficient LED lighting and flux sensors automatically adjust brightness and lighting temperature to complement the indoor environment.
- A heating and cooling system uses integrated indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity sensors to select between radiant floor heating and mini-split heat pumps in colder months. During warmer months, cooling options are air conditioning from the same mini-splits and cross-ventilation with low-energy fans.
- A smart inverter can operate on a time-of-use utility schedule and can island to allow for electrical operations during a grid outage.
Las Vegas is a popular retirement destination, and over the last 20 years, the city has seen the development of large retirement communities. The Las Vegas team recognizes the great value of being able to remain in one’s home, regardless of age or ability. Sinatra Living, is designed for middle-class Nevada residents approximately 45 to 65 years of age who do not yet have a restricted income. The goal is to ease the transition for middle-aged workers, who are likely to shift to restricted incomes. As a safe, comfortable, and energy-efficient home that takes advantage of the region’s tremendous solar resource, Sinatra Living not only helps retirees live independently, but well.
Sinatra Living will either become the flagship home as part of a partnership with a technology company that uses the design for other Las Vegas homes, or the house will join the previous Solar Decathlon 2013 entry at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.
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