Texans may like things big, but students at the University of Texas El Paso and El Paso Community College are bucking that dated trend and trading it in for all things tiny. Like many of the teams at this year's Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California, while creating their ADAPT House, the Texas students placed a heavy emphasis on integrating outdoor living into everyday life. Though ADAPT is quite compact at just 800 square feet, a careful distribution of space and forward-thinking technologies help the home harness the power of El Paso's plentiful sun while pulling in the inimitable views of nearby Chihuahua's desert mountains. But its material palette, which was decidedly chosen to not only suit the oftentimes harsh climate of El Paso, but also represent all cultures present in Far West Texas, remains this home's most salient feature. Keep reading to learn more about this southwestern stunner.
The Texas student team created ADAPT with the belief that a home is not just a location or state of mind but a place where the heart is. The house was designed with desert living in mind and the students drew inspiration from the indigenous Pueblo Indian adaptions to the Chihuahuan desert. But the students’ site specific material choices make this home stand out the most; corten steel panel walls will age to a beautiful patina, accents of color and light infuse the house with a rustic, Southwestern ambiance, and a slatted wood canopy covers the porch to perfectly shade the house-length deck. Ultimately, what Team Texas created was a bubble of comfort that would feel natural on a mountain plateau, in the high desert, or on verdant farmland.
In addition to passive cooling and heating strategies, the home employs a ductless radiant heating and cooling system that circulates air fully as a closed loop of heat. A separate set of pipes in a chilled-beam system moves water through a variable refrigeration unit and chills the fluid before it travels through the ceiling to cool the interior spaces. The walls are made of a strong fiber composite material that is a powerful insulator and highly resistant to fire. Given the ample sun, the students wanted to maximize energy collection throughout the day, so they employed bifacial solar collection units to gather solar energy from both the top and bottom of the units.
Following Solar Decathlon 2013, ADAPT will be transported back to the University of Texas at El Paso and exhibited as part of the university’s Centennial Celebration. Afterwards, the house will remain on campus as an educational resource and science center for students.
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