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April 21, 2014

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UNLV students’ solar-powered house wins second place

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Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Students, from left to right, Iani Batilov, Kalewalani Banaco, Heather Holmstrom, Jinger Zeng and Christian Iusso from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas celebrate after learning their team placed second in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. on October 12, 2013.

UNLV Students’ Solar-Powered House Places 2nd

Students, from left to right, Vu Tran, Kim Hammer, Kalewalani Banaco, Heather Holmstrom and Thom Slaughter from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas celebrate after learning their team placed second in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. on October 12, 2013. Launch slideshow »

UNLV students won second place in an international competition to build a solar-powered house.

The university was the only American college that placed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, which challenges 20 universities from around the world to build a house that doesn’t produce carbon emissions.

Vienna University of Technology from Austria won first place. The Czech Technical Institute from the Czech Republic came in third.

In finishing among the top three colleges, UNLV beat out top U.S. universities such as Stanford, University of Southern California and University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“This was truly an honor and a privilege to be here. We did it,” UNLV graduate architecture student Alexia Chen said today when she accepted the award for her team. “We thank our mentors at the university and throughout the community who have helped us make it to this point. This was truly a life-changing experience, and everything we got from this experience was incredible.”

UNLV Solar House

A doorway is shown here at UNLV's Desert Sol project, a solar house that will operate entirely on renewable energy, on Friday, August 30, 2013. Desert Sol will travel to Irvine, Calif., in September to compete against 19 other teams from around the world in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition. Launch slideshow »

For two years, Team Las Vegas, a group of more than 60 UNLV engineering, architecture and communication students, has been designing and constructing a home of the future. Their model house, dubbed DesertSol, is a 700-square-foot vacation home that features modern-looking rooms, heated flooring, a “mesquite tree” shade structure, a water fountain and several large solar panels.

DesertSol was built on UNLV’s Paradise campus and then transported by truck to Irvine, Calif., where the awards were announced. Over the course of two weeks, university students from around the world hosted dinner parties, contests and thousands of visitors to showcase their designs and houses.

Their “net-zero” homes — which don’t use fossil fuels — were graded on a variety of factors, from their design aesthetics and engineering to how energy-efficient they are. Thousands of visitors streamed through the homes for this month's competition.

UNLV’s team also won several awards in the competition’s 10 individual contests.

The team won first place in the market appeal and hot water contests, second place in the communications contest, third place in the engineering and home entertainment contests, fourth place in the comfort zone contest, and fifth place in the architecture contest.

Students from UNLV braved the searing summer heat and torrential thunderstorms on their way to building DesertSol. The team also encountered a delay in transporting their home to California after problems with their trucking company, but they managed to finish constructing and installing their home in time for the competition.

DesertSol will be displayed at the Springs Preserve as a model for sustainable housing in Las Vegas.

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