Solar Decathlon 2017

UNLV is supporting a student-led team to build sustainable, “age-in-place” home for U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon contest.

What is Solar Decathlon?

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon showcases innovative solar powered houses that are designed, built, and operated by collegiate teams. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends technology, market potential, and design excellence with smart energy production and maximum efficiency.

UNLV’s 2017 Solar Decathlon Team

UNLV’s team is one of 12 university teams worldwide participating in the 2017 competition. A University-wide collaboration, the team includes faculty and students from multiple UNLV colleges currently including the School of Architecture, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, and the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.

DesertSol rendering
Rendering of the 2017 project

Past Success

DesertSol, UNLV’s 2013 entry, placed first among American universities and second overall in the competition out of a field of 20. Of the ten areas the homes were judged on, DesertSol ranked No. 1 in Market Appeal, No. 2 in Communications and No. 3 in Engineering.

"Competitions like the Solar Decathlon combine research, education, and community engagement in unique and meaningful ways, which is critical for UNLV as we continue on our path to become a top tier national public research university.”

UNLV President Len Jessup.

2017 Design Concept

In addition to a home that blends cost-effectiveness, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency, for 2017 the UNLV team has chosen to design a home that meets a growing social need — an aging-in-place home.

Nationally it is projected that by 2030 one out of every five people in the United States will be 65 or older. This "graying" of America’s population through which the proportion of people in older age groups grows faster than the proportion of the population in younger age groups, is referred to as the "Gray Tsunami."

To address this, UNLV’s home will combine accessibility and interior comfort with wireless integrated technology. The design will serve as a smart-home that will help older adults and those with disabilities move safely in their home and communicate with family and social services, enabling them to remain in their homes and prevent transfer to an institutionalized care facility.


The competition is taking place October 5-15, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. There are several public exhibit days and we welcome everyone to come out and support the team! Please visit the Solar Decathlon website to plan your visit.

Support the Team

The financial cost of developing UNLV’s house is estimated at $1 million. UNLV thanks all the companies and individuals who have donated thus far, including the project’s main sponsors:


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Project Contacts

  • Nasko Balaktchiev, student project manager
  • Adam Betemedhin, student project engineer
  • Catherine Dingley, faculty co-investigator for health care, associate professor (School of Nursing)
  • Alfredo Fernandez-Gonzalez, faculty co-investigator for architecture, professor (School of Architecture)
  • David James, principal faculty investigator, associate professor (Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering)
  • Attila Lawrence, faculty co-investigator, for interior design and health care interior design, professor (School of Architecture)
  • Jack Aylor, director of development (Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering)

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