SHADE isn’t just shelter from the sun – it stands for Solar Homes Adapting of Desert Equilibrium, which is the name of an eco house designed in collaboration between Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico. The stand-alone energy and water efficient house addresses the unique challenges presented by the suburban sprawl of southwestern cities like Phoenix and Albuquerque. The project is designed to work in harmony with the desert while providing an affordable housing option for the growing population in the Southwest.

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The SHADE house incorporates some sustainability strategies such as passive heating and cooling that are unique to the desert, and intensive water management. It also focuses on adaptability as a long-term strategy to make the house viable for the different types of residents that would choose to live in it over time. Adaptability of the house is achieved through modularity; if residents need to expand the house, they can attach prefabricated modules at a single seam – a system designed by the SHADE team. Adaptability in the SHADE house is also achieved through a flexible floor plan, which includes flex space and movable walls.

A unique aspect of the house, which is appropriate to the desert’s relatively mild climate for most of the year, is the use of indoor/outdoor spaces. The home is equipped with several patios, including a generous southern patio that extends the living space. The entire southern wall can open up to eliminate the barrier to the outdoors when weather allows. Along with passive heating and cooling strategies specific to the desert, the SHADE house also incorporates some cutting-edge mechanical systems such as radiant cooling and thermal storage, not to mention fixed and tilted solar photovoltaic panels.

The SHADE house is an entry in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathalon competition taking place in Irvine, California in October.