The walls of this house have sound-absorbing panels and multiple layers of thermal insulation. The home was designed to muffle jarring outside sounds and prevent disturbing echoes from bouncing off the interior walls.
Constructed by UNLV students for a collegiate design competition, the house is intended to cater to those with post-traumatic stress disorder or those with brain trauma where random noises bring on stress.
“The ability to fine-tune their environment is critical in helping them develop control,” said Eric Weber, a military veteran and UNLV associate professor of architecture who is adviser to the university’s Solar Decathlon challenge project team.
UNLV is one of 11 universities competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2020 Solar Decathlon build challenge, a biennial contest where students design, construct and operate homes powered by renewable energy. The challenge’s competition events, postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be done virtually over a four-day period that began Thursday with student teams presenting their projects to jurors.
The UNLV entry is a 628-square-foot house that was constructed at Xtreme Manufacturing in Henderson and moved last week to its permanent home at the Healing Garden in downtown Las Vegas, where the city will use it as office space and a break room, said Ryan Manthei, a student leader on the project
The house is a prototype for manufacturers to replicate, and will eventually be open to the public on exhibit.
As many as 50 students helped within the past two years on the construction of the home, which they named Mojave Bloom.
Mojave Bloom was designed to comfort veterans with PTSD, but it is an ideal model for anyone with PTSD or a traumatic brain injury, Weber said.
Mojave Bloom’s design allows occupants to change the environment to meet their satisfaction, which helps those who might suffer from sound-induced panic attacks and other symptoms of PTSD, he said.
Those with PTSD often suffer from agoraphobia, the fear of open, public spaces, and/or claustrophobia, the fear of closed spaces. Included in the build design is a special fence enclosure that can make a person feel protected when closed, but less trapped when open, Weber said.
He added that strategic placement of windows allows greater visibility because a person with PTSD might want clear visuals from inside so they feel prepared for any possible and sudden approaches or disturbances.
“There are a lot of people who suffer from PTSD. The information could have impacts far beyond the veteran community,” Weber said.
The project also has innovative sustainable design elements.
Renewable energy is crucial to the future of design because of climate change, Weber said. Next-generation buildings must be able to generate power to handle electrical disruptions, such as the uncontrollable fires in California that began last summer causing widespread power outages in affected areas.
Every phase of the Mojave Bloom project was completed by students, who had to be in their final year of studies to participate. Commercial roofers constructed the roof because students didn’t have Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) fall protection certification, in which workers are taught how to identify and reduce fall hazards.
“We always look for advice on certain things, but it was designed by a team of students and built by a team of students,” Manthei said.
The project garnered interest from many parts of the campus, including students pursuing degrees in architecture, mechanical engineering, computer science, graphic design and psychology. For instance, engineering students designed the systems that generate electrical power, hot water and air conditioning.
Manthei, a graduate student in architecture, joined the project because he wanted to experience the architecture process from design to construction. After all, not many students can say they worked on such a project from beginning to end.
Being a leader, Manthei improved his communication skills and time management. “I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person, not only as a designer,” he said.
Alejandro Muñoz, a construction management major, parlayed his work on the project to an internship with local builder McCarthy Building Companies. During the internship, Muñoz was able to work on construction of Circa, the new megaresort in downtown.
He plans to become a project manager for a commercial construction company that focuses on sustainable design, and he wants to stay in Las Vegas.
“I grew up here seeing different buildings go up. There’s a lot of opportunities in Vegas for construction,” he said.
Contest jurors will assess the houses on innovation, comfort, energy efficiency, market potential and how affordable the structures might be to reproduce.
UNLV in 2013 was the runner-up in the competition.
Back to top