Sustainability in the Desert: Mojave Bloom

June 10, 2021 | Not for Profit

Resource Furniture is a proud sponsor of Mojave Bloom, designed and built by students at the University of Nevada Las Vegas for the 2020 Solar Decathlon. Designed to serve as interim housing for military veterans with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries, the house’s configuration, materials, and furnishings were all selected to give residents a sense of empowerment as they transition back into society.

Mojave Bloom is currently being installed at its permanent location within the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden (a memorial garden dedicated to the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting) where it will serve as a public resource and learning center. Mojave Bloom is currently being installed at its permanent location within the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden (a memorial garden dedicated to the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting) where it will serve as a public resource and learning center.

Mojave Bloom is UNLV’s third foray into Solar Decathlon, the U.S. Department of Energy’s biannual collegiate competition that challenges student teams to design, build, and operate affordable, energy-efficient homes. With over 200,000 military veterans living in Nevada, the UNLV team focused their efforts on creating a space that would promote healing for returning vets suffering the effects of wartime trauma. The result is an inspired approach to sustainable homebuilding, capturing first place in the Presentation and Operation categories, second in Innovation and Energy, and placing third overall.

The structure’s monolithic shape is meant to envelop the resident; thick walls insulate against heat loss/absorption while creating a barrier against exterior noises that may trigger PTSD. Windows set in an East-facing clerestory flood the bedroom with morning light, helping to regulate circadian rhythms and reduce insomnia. Carefully placed openings throughout the house offer visual reminders of the larger community beyond the gate.

The home’s interior living spaces are built around a central courtyard, bathed in diffuse light filtered through a canopy of bi-facial photovoltaic solar panels. Living green walls and windows that separate the courtyard from the bedroom and living areas slide open, offering residents a way to extend their internal space into the outdoors as desired. The living green walls also help keep the courtyard cool via evaporative transpiration, with recaptured water used to create meditative sounds of a trickling fountain. All the details — the light, sounds, and ability to manipulate the space — are meant to act as catalysts for healing and habilitation.

The home’s innovative sustainability features include a solar-thermal heating system that captures the sun’s rays through evacuated tube collectors. (Like the photovoltaic solar panels, the solar collector tubes are rack-mounted to tilt for optimal positioning depending on the season.) The collector tubes heat water for the sinks and showers and run hot water through pipes under the floorboards to provide radiant heating. Energy storage devices and state-of-the-art batteries allow the home’s appliances to run independently of the electric utility grid for up to three days.

Resource Furniture was asked to donate furnishings that maximize functionality and comfort within a small space. UNLV was extremely careful in its specifications, selecting pieces not only for their ease of use, but also for how they might affect residents’ perceived sense of safety, privacy, and autonomy. The transforming furniture allows each room to be reconfigured as needed, whether to accommodate social activities or, conversely, to create a place for solitary rest and refuge.

Resource provided a Penelope Sofa with integrated shelving and cabinetry to double the functionality of the bedroom; when not in use, the queen-sized murphy bed hides away to expose a small sofa. Transforming consoles, like Falda, fold open to serve as work or dining surfaces. Used in the open area off the kitchen, Goliath‘s telescoping mechanism allows for the addition of leaves that make it possible to seat up to 12 guests for dinner. Coupled with stackable Flow Chairs, the entire dining set-up takes up minimal square footage. An Aida C daybed was also installed in the common area to provide additional lounging/seating.

Fresh air is vented through the home using innovative Phase Change Material (PCM) plenum energy recovery system and energy-efficient exhaust fans.

Mojave Bloom is currently being installed at its permanent location within the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden (a memorial garden dedicated to the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting) where it will serve as a public resource and learning center.

For more information about Mojave Bloom, or to take a virtual 3D tour of the home, visit the team’s official website at http://solar.egr.unlv.edu/.