Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (MArch)



First Committee Member

Alfredo Fernandez-Gonzalez

Second Committee Member

Eric Weber

Third Committee Member

Daniel H. Ortega

Fourth Committee Member

Robert F. Boehm

Number of Pages



How do you design a durable, sustainable, and financeable Net Zero Energy house for a cold weather climate using little or no external energy that is also affordable? Reviewing all of the factors that would influence the design and materials selection of an appropriate response to the issues, the perfect system for housing people, whether it is in response to affordability, durability, comfort, cultural sensitivity, appearance or being locally appropriate, is using some kind of straw bale construction system with an integrated frost protected shallow foundation and a SkyTherm North design.

The focus and intention of this research is to investigate a combined system using the three integrated strategies to provide an affordable, durable and sustainable Net Zero housing design for a cold climate. Those strategies are, namely, 1) A SkyTherm North, 2) Highly insulated building envelope, Straw bale Construction, with super-windows, and a 3) Frost Protected Shallow Foundation. A computer added design of a prototype is used to simulate the design strategies with, but not limited to, HEED, Energy Scheming, and EQuest.

The definition of housing that will used is from Paul Pholeros (2013) and states the following: "The needs of an individual/family to experience security and safety, in all aspects of living, in an ongoing situation be viewed and accepted as a basic human right. The elements of this need include dependence on clean water at all times, continually working sanitation facilities, thermally comfortable living environment, working and workable food preparation and cooking facilities, clean and efficient sleeping areas, fresh air and damp free living environments, durable and easily maintained systems, and most of all, a beautiful and nurturing place to call home."

This research will predict and validate, through energy modeling software programs, an affordable, sustainable, and durable highly efficient building system designed as a unit, will provide 100% of the thermal comfort necessary in most of the worlds climates without use of any exterior active strategies.


The research will focus on an investigation, design and modeling of a super insulated building envelope system with a roof-pond north design that will supply 100% of the heating and cooling needs in most of the world's climates.

A prototype unit will be built with the strategies evaluated with the energy modeling software. The software will be used to guide in the design so that 100% of thermal comfort will be generated by all of the passive strategies. The built prototype, once data is collected and analyzed, will be used to revise and adapt strategies to accomplish the most efficient structure possible. After this is finished another livable full-scale structure will be built for more research and validation and provide permanent occupancy. The benefits and results of this research will produce a desirable, highly efficient, sustainable and affordable dwelling that is accessible and can endure the test of time. What a valuable asset for any family, neighborhood and the larger community as a whole.


Affordable; Architecture and climate; Carbon Neutral; Cold regions; Dwellings – Energy consumption; Dwellings – Insulation; Ecological houses; Low-Income; Roof Pond; Straw Bale; Straw bale houses; Sustainable; Sustainability


Architecture | Environmental Design | Natural Resources and Conservation | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Sustainability

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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