There are still over six months to go until the next US Solar Decathlon, but competitors are already hard at work building their prototype sustainable home entries. The first to come to our attention is NexusHaus, a collaborative effort between the University of Texas at Austin and Munich's Technische Universität München that will run solely on solar power and focuses on water efficiency.
The design of NexusHaus is still ongoing, and may well change by the time the competition officially kicks off on October 8, in Irvine, California. That said, it currently comprises a couple of equally-proportioned connected modules, which combine to offer a total floorspace of roughly 74 sq m (800 sq ft). This is split between a reasonably-sized kitchen, and lounge area, in addition to a full-sized bathroom (with glass-walled shower), and two bedrooms. A small shaded outdoor area will also be available for use.
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The primary construction material isn't finalized yet, but a team representative told us that it will likely be locally-sourced wood. The home is also designed to be easily transportable by truck and sports a small green wall.
As is the case with all Solar Decathlon entries, NexusHaus is solar powered, and will draw all its juice from a roof-based array. The array is still being developed, so no technical information is available on it yet, but competition rules mean that we can expect both the solar array and all amenities inside the home to be very efficient.
Reflecting the University of Texas at Austin's local climate, the big feature that the students focused on with NexusHaus is its planned water efficiency. A novel canopy performs as both a lightweight shade and rainwater catchment system. This funnels rainwater into gutters and then stores it underground for use within a radiant cooling system, which is usually best suited to arid climates. An air-conditioning system will also be installed.
NexusHaus will also feature an integrated gray water system that recycles used household water for a very efficient irrigation system that feeds vegetables and assorted greenery.
"Water that has been used in the bathroom sink, shower, and clothes washer will be captured and treated as gray water," explains the team. "Treated gray water can then be used in the high efficiency drip irrigation system, allowing for a sizable reduction in potable water use. "
All of this combines to what the NexusHaus team reckons could be water savings of up to 50 percent, compared to a regular house.
Work is now underway to turn NexusHaus into a viable prototype home, and we'll update on this, and other notable Solar Decathlon projects, in the coming months.
The video below offers a tour around the home.