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Archive for December, 2020

Mojave Bloom: A Therapeutic Home for Post-Traumatic Healing

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Architects are really good at a lot of things, but one quality in particular stands out to Eric Weber, an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). He believes that once architects understand the nature of a challenge, they excel at developing thoughtful responses to it. Maybe that is why Weber’s Design + Build students chose to create a home that supports veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for their U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® 2020 Build Challenge entry, Mojave Bloom.

Team Las Vegas includes four veterans, one service member’s spouse, and Weber himself who is a Desert Storm­ veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Furthermore, Las Vegas is home to many former service members due to its proximity to Nellis Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. The mission of finding solutions for the challenges that returning soldiers face not only hit close to home, but really resonated with the team.

UNLV students collage

The UNLV students on Team Las Vegas developed the Mojave Bloom concept as a
sustainable salute to military veterans.


Zach Berzolla is #SDLivingtheDream:
Using a Multidisciplinary Approach for Effective Building Design

Monday, December 14, 2020

For this edition of #SDLivingtheDream we learn about Zach Berzolla, a 2018 Middlebury College team alumnus. He shares with us the work he is doing at MIT, along with key concepts that he has learned for successful building design, from Solar Decathlon. How about that for a doer designer!


Name: Zach Berzolla

Year participated in Solar Decathlon: 2018 Design Challenge

University team: Middlebury College

 Current organization / employer: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sustainable Design Lab

Current role: Research Assistant/ SMBT Student

How did participation in the Solar Decathlon affect the trajectory of your career?

I knew I was interested in zero energy buildings, but the Solar Decathlon cemented for me that I wanted to make this field my career. Furthermore,  as I started working with the multidisciplinary team I assembled for the Race to Zero, I realized the importance of an integrated design process. This was one of the reasons I ended up at the MIT Sustainable Design Lab for my master’s; the lab is multi-disciplinary and focused on tools and analyses that architects, engineers, and policy-makers can all understand.

 Describe a work outcome, building project or other achievement you are most proud of and how (if) it relates to your experience with Solar Decathlon.

At MIT, I have been working with other members of my lab to make urban building energy modeling tools accessible to every city so that they can make physics-backed decisions on how to meet their emissions reduction goals. Through Solar Decathlon trainings and collaborations, I learned the applied building physics that underlie every building upgrade strategy we propose to meet these emissions reduction goals.

Zach at VERMOD Homes, a project that he sought out, which was inspired by his Solar Decathlon work. He documented improvements to the factory process for their zero-energy manufactured homes.

Solar Decathlon Technology Innovation Blog Series: Building Enclosures

Thursday, December 3, 2020

This is the first in a monthly series on Solar Decathlon Build Challenge technology innovations, through which we will explore innovative technologies and strategies 2020 Build Challenge teams are employing in their houses. This month’s post focuses on building enclosures – or walls, windows, roof of the homes. Stay tuned for posts on indoor comfort, energy performance, water efficiency, and much more!

Since 2002, the Solar Decathlon has invited collegiate teams to design and build highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. As we ramp up to the Solar Decathlon Competition in April 2021, the new Solar Decathlon Tech Innovation blog series will highlight innovative products and strategies teams are employing in their homes to achieve competition goals. This edition focuses on building enclosures. We caught up with representatives from three Solar Decathlon student teams learn more about their unique approaches to walls, windows and roofs.

Kansas State University’s Net Positive Studio is a multiyear effort in which students pursuing a master’s in architecture work with local groups in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast neighborhood. The Kansas State team is developing a high quality energy-efficient home that is affordable for low-income households.

The Warrior Home team designed by the University of Waterloo team in Ontario, Canada, has completed a four-bedroom, single-family home to address the cultural and societal needs of families within the Chippewas of Nawash indigenous community in southwest Ontario.

The CampusCraft team at the University of Denver has undertaken the net-zero renovation of a single-family residence located in the Denver floodplain. CampusCraft has developed a cost-effective plan following Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines to update a 1950s home with energy-efficient technologies.

What is your home’s enclosure technology or strategy, and why did it make sense for this house?

The Kansas State team went prefab, putting components together in their facility on-campus in Manhattan, Kansas, then moving them to the building site in Kansas City.

“Inside our panels, we have conventional wood-stick framing,” said Michael Gibson, an associate professor at Kansas State. “But I think the main difference is we’re using a polyurethane-based structural insulated panel (SIP) from Raycore. Their panels have foam with 2-by framing within the panel. And so we use that as our load-bearing structure—our walls—and then we put oriented strand board (OS) on the outside of that, and then continuous insulation on the outside of that. And then we use Huber’s ZIP System® on the outside as our weather barrier and an air barrier system.”


to people installing the structural insulated panel (SIP) from Raycore.




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