Las Vegas’ Green Decade Marked by Decathlon Success

Desert Sol by UNLV's Team Las VegasHere’s a riddle for you: What is beautiful, totally green, and red all over? The answer: DesertSol of course! DesertSol is the name of the green home designed and built by the amazingly-talented UNLV students collectively known as Team Las Vegas.

They recently completed the Department of Energy’s prestigious Solar Decathlon competition held in Irvine, California.  Students from colleges and universities across the globe can work years just to earn the privilege to compete in what is essentially the Olympics of home design. Having our home team in such an event was quite an honor as only twenty teams are selected to participate. In that sense, every team in the Solar Decathlon is already a winner.

The task confronting Team Las Vegas was daunting and the competition formidable. As a first-time entry, the team faced incredible odds.

Jubiliation for Team Las Vegas! In case you haven’t yet heard the news, DesertSol was a huge success, taking second place overall. Team Las Vegas was the only U.S. team to place in the top three! Major kudos to the students and everyone else involved, including faculty, staff, advisors and sponsors. They have achieved something remarkable that will have a lasting, beneficial effect on our community. In addition they have earned well-deserved international recognition, spotlighting UNLV’s strength in engineering, architecture, renewable energy and commitment to sustainability.

There are actually ten contests in the Solar Decathlon: Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment and Energy Balance.

desert-sol-interiorTeam Las Vegas took top honors for Market Appeal, in which the jury considered livability, marketability and buildability as key factors. They also tied for first place in the Hot Water contest. Every team achieved a perfect score for Energy Balance.

In Communications, DesertSol placed second. Once you visit their excellent website at you’ll understand why.

Desert Sol bedroom.In other contests, the team ranked third in Engineering, fourth in Comfort Zone, fifth in Architecture and seventh in Home Entertainment. Details on the entire competition, including teams, scores and other information, can be found at

There is a certain synchronicity in the timing of UNLV’s success in the Solar Decathlon since it has been about ten years since the green building movement in Nevada really began.

Ten years ago, green buildings were mostly unheard of in our state. The U.S. Green Building Council – Nevada Chapter, now a well-established and effective organization, was just forming. Las Desert Sol bathroomVegas is now the home of the largest green building projects in the world and Nevada has been among the top states in LEED-certified green building in recent years. Several chapter members volunteered time and expertise to help with the development of DesertSol, which achieved a LEED-Platinum rating (the highest possible).

UNLV’s work with renewable energy goes back much further, but ten years ago marked the formation of Solar NV, the Southern Nevada Chapter of the American Solar Energy Society. At their recent Leadership Awards banquet, Solar NV awarded Team Las Vegas with a generous donation to help their effort. Solar NV recently held their ninth consecutive Solar Home Tour which educates the public about the same principles that made DesertSol a success.

Team Las Vegas on stage.Now DesertSol returns to Las Vegas. It will be re-assembled on a permanent site at the Springs Preserve, joining the facility’s seven other LEED-Platinum buildings. It will continue to benefit the community, serving as an educational exhibit where hundreds of thousands of visitors will learn about affordable, comfortable and environmentally-responsible living. Locals as well as homeowners from around the world will experience the benefits of a world-class green home as part of one of the finest examples of sustainable living on the planet.

Team Las Vegas has shown the world that Nevadans are serious about sustainability. We owe them our thanks. The Las Vegas community and the state of Nevada have come a long way in ten years. What a difference one decade, and one decathlon, can make!


  1. Daniel Huard says

    What a great article Steve. I intend to link to it a lot!!

  2. Steve,

    You are on top of being green. Great article. The UNLV Decathlon team did a great job! I am glad that you are such a strong force in the green industry. Your willingness to share your knowledge with others is a great asset to all of us in the green industry.

    Thank you!

    Donard Twardowski

  3. Thanks for the support, Steve! We couldn’t be more pleased with the results, and with how the community has responded. I look forward to joining everyone at the grand opening of the house when it’s ready, probably in early Spring. See you there!

    Eric Weber, Assistant Professor, UNLV School of Architecture