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  • 2017-08-25 16:05:37
  • Article ID: 680110

UNLV Preps to Again Shine at International Solar Homebuilding Contest

Team Las Vegas readying 'Sinatra', its aging-in-place solar home for the prestigious U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition.

  • Credit: Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services

    A team of UNLV students are building an aging-in-place home for the U.S. Department of Energy's 2017 Solar Decathlon.

This solar house is starting to look like a solar home.

With a date in Denver on Oct. 5-15, the UNLV Solar Decathlon team’s Sinatra Living project has the bones in place for a swanky home worthy of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. Ol’ Sol Eyes, if you will.

Now comes the time to give it its guts, heart and brains. 

“We're finishing up our sheeting,” project manager Adam Betemedhin said. “The next phase, we're going to be doing our plumbing rough-in, electrical rough-in. After we get that done and tested we'll do insulation, drywall and some of our finishes. Then we’ll go on to integrate some of our automation equipment. We're looking really good.”

Sponsored by the United States Department of Energy, Solar Decathlon pits 13 university teams to compete across 10 categories from energy efficiency to architecture, engineering, home life and more. UNLV took first among American universities in 2013 with its DesertSol home, now on display at the Las Vegas Spring Preserve.

Just to get to the competition, schools must submit a detailed proposal to be evaluated by a panel of engineers and scientists. Proposals are judged on the design of the home, a team’s ability raise the money for it, and their capacity for integrating curricula into the project.

The cross-disciplinary team features 25 students majoring in engineering, hotel administration, architecture, and allied health sciences.

One of the prime goals for Sinatra Living is design with aging in place in mind — the idea that this is a home that is adaptable and suitable to remain living in through one’s twilight years.

The home is designed to comply with the American with Disabilities Act from the start with touches like adjustable countertops that can accommodate both standing and wheelchair heights, doors that are wheelchair width. As medical equipment becomes critical to later life, Sinatra Living will prioritize its battery backup power for critical equipment in cases of power outage.

Balancing out the healthy, worry-free living and energy efficiency of the home has presented design challenges. Getting sufficient daylight, for example, can be a struggle for older people — Alzheimer’s patients’ symptoms can intensify as light fades — but large windows lower energy efficiency. To meet both needs, Sinatra Living has generous overhangs over large windows to allow sunlight into the 990-square-foot home while regulating temperature.

The Solar Decathlon team also is zeroing in on automation and smart living to a degree that wasn’t available to the 2013 squad.

Amazon has partnered with the team to allow access to Amazon Web Services and their engineers to place sensors throughout the house and track every last grain of data that gets generated to help streamline those automation and integration efforts in everything from lighting to heating and cooling to power management.

“We’re going into a time where everything is connected in some way or another. The way we're going about designing this home and monitoring, and tracking the process of this home really shows a step forward in homebuilding design,” Betemedhin said.

Amazon isn’t the only big-name tech company to lend a hand. Tesla donated a Powerwall unit, which is a battery to store energy from the house’s photovoltaic solar panels. The company is also providing a Model S to help meet the Solar Decathlon’s challenge of keeping an electric vehicle charged over the five-day event.

Sinatra Living is currently being assembled on UNLV's Paradise Campus. You can get a peek at the house at the send-off event Sept. 7, which will feature representatives from Tesla, Switch, the NV Energy Foundation, and other community sponsors of the project. 

Then, starting the week of Sept. 11, the team will disassemble the whole thing and bring the house to Denver for the competition, re-assembling it near the University of Colorado. By then, they’ll have the ability to fine-tune all of the home’s processes, down to the degree, volt, and drop of water, with all the data necessary to back up those decisions.

“It will be cool see the look on my teammates faces when they see how well this building is performing compared to an average home built by developers,” Betemedhin said.

 

Find a link to an informational video on the UNLV Team Las Vegas 'Sinatra Living' solar home at this social media link.

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High-Speed Movie Aids Scientists Who Design Glowing Molecules

In a recent experiment conducted at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, a research team used bright, ultrafast X-ray pulses from SLAC's X-ray free-electron laser to create a high-speed movie of a fluorescent protein in action. With that information, the scientists began to design a marker that switches more easily, a quality that can improve resolution during biological imaging.

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PPPL Physicist Francesca Poli Named ITER Scientist Fellow

Article describes new ITER Scientist Fellow.

Los Alamos Gains Role in High-Performance Computing for Materials Program

A new high-performance computing initiative announced this week by the U.S. Department of Energy will help U.S. industry accelerate the development of new or improved materials for use in severe environments.

UK Commits $88 Million to LBNF/DUNE in First-Ever Umbrella Science Agreement with U.S.

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Wayne State Receives $1.2 Million NSF Grant to Develop Autonomous Battery Operating System

Researchers at Wayne State University led by Nathan Fisher, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to address the need for effective, integrative battery operating systems that provide sustained and reliable power.

UAH leads effort that secures $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation

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Tulane Receives Grant to Reduce Auto Emissions

Members of Tulane University's Shantz Lab will work with industrial scientists to assist in the development of next-generation materials designed to reduce harmful automotive emissions. The three-year old lab and its group of students have received a grant and equipment resources from SACHEM, Inc., a chemical science company.

Lab Leads New Effort in Materials Development

Lawrence Livermore National Lab will be part of a multi-lab effort to apply high-performance computing to US-based industry's discovery, design, and development of materials for severe environments under a new initiative announced by the Department of Energy (DOE) on Sept. 19.

ORNL Innovation Crossroads Program Opens Second Round of Energy Entrepreneurial Fellowships

Entrepreneurs are invited to apply for the second round of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Innovation Crossroads program.

Los Alamos Recognized as Top Diversity Employer

For the second straight year, Los Alamos National Laboratory was recognized as a top diversity employer by LATINA Style and STEM Workforce Diversity magazine.


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Fungi: Gene Activator Role Discovered

Specific modifications to fungi DNA may hold the secret to turning common plant degradation agents into biofuel producers.

First Look at a Living Cell Membrane

Neutrons provide the solution to nanoscale examination of living cell membrane and confirm the existence of lipid rafts.

High Yield Biomass Conversion Strategy Ready for Commercialization

Researchers convert 80 percent of biomass into high-value products with strategy that's ready for commercialization.

Consequences of Drought Stress on Biofuels

Switchgrass cultivated during a year of severe drought inhibited microbial fermentation and resulting biofuel production.

Clay Minerals and Metal Oxides Change How Uranium Travels Through Sediments

Montmorillonite clays prevent uranium from precipitating from liquids, letting it travel with groundwater.

Tundra Loses Carbon with Rapid Permafrost Thaw

Seven-year-study shows plant growth does not sustainably balance carbon losses from solar warming and permafrost thaw.

Crystals Grow by Twisting, Aligning and Snapping Together

Van der Waals force, which that enables tiny crystals to grow, could be used to design new materials.

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Scarce compound, vitamin B12, is key for cellular metabolism and may help shape microbial communities that affect environmental cycles and bioenergy production.

Carbon in Floodplain Unlikely to Cycle into the Atmosphere

Microbes leave a large fraction of carbon in anoxic sediments untouched, a key finding for understanding how watersheds influence Earth's ecosystem.

Bacterial Cell Wall Changes Produce More Fatty Molecules

New strategy greatly increases the production and secretion of biofuel building block lipids in bacteria able to grow at industrial scales.


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