• The arrangement of NexusHaus' two modules reference the dogtrot houses of the American South. Photo courtesy UTSOA.

The 2015 Solar Decathlon took place in Irvine, Calif. in mid-October after nearly two years of work by 14 teams. The Decathlon, a biennial event since 2002, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and “challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.”

For the 2015 contest, The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSOA) joined forces with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) on a project called NexusHaus. Students from UTSOA conceived the design, which was then developed by a joint studio between UTSOA and TUM. The house itself was constructed by UTSOA students in Austin, disassembled, and reassembled in just a few days once it arrived in Irvine for the competition.

NexusHaus consists of two modules whose configuration references the 19th-century dogtrot houses of the American South. The narrow volumes are easy to transport and cross-ventilate, and their orientation capitalizes on southern exposure throughout the winter and minimizes exposure during summer afternoons. The UT Austin School of Engineering contributed a hydronic HVAC system. A 6kW PV array powers the house, which is also equipped with a rainwater catchment system and an aquaculture and permaculture garden for growing food.

NexusHaus finished fourth overall in the competition, which consisted of 10 contests intended to test performance, livability, and affordability. The team took top honors in the Commuting and Energy Balance contests. After the Decathlon, the house was moved to McDonald Observatory near Ft. Davis, Texas.

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