Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (MArch)



First Committee Member

Lee-Anne Milburn, Chair

Second Committee Member

Michael Alcorn

Third Committee Member

Alfredo Fernandez-Gonzalez

Graduate Faculty Representative

Thomas Piechota

Number of Pages



This research proposes recommendations specific to the desert southwest for retrofitting existing commercial buildings. A dry, arid region such as Las Vegas, Nevada must contend with different ecological concerns than other parts of the United States. The city of Las Vegas sits in a valley in the Mojave Desert of the Southwestern United States and has a population of over 2.5 million inhabitants. The Las Vegas summers are rather hot and frequently exceed 100 degrees F, while the winters are usually mild, about 60-70 degrees F with cool nights. The state of Nevada receives an average of four inches of rainfall per year. Higher temperatures during summer months increase energy demand for cooling in buildings and simultaneously add stress to the electricity grid during peak periods of demand, which results in greater emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Most existing commercial buildings located in Las Vegas were not designed for energy efficiency, but retrofitting represents one of the easiest, most immediate and cost effective ways to reduce carbon emissions.

A case-study evaluation was employed to identify energy efficient design strategies that can effectively be implemented to retrofit existing commercial buildings in the southwest. Buildings in Tempe (AZ), Seattle (WA), San Jose (CA), and Pittsburgh (PA) were evaluated for their energy-saving and climate responsive strategies, their design (re)development processes, and construction technologies. Successful retrofitting in the Desert Southwest begins with the consideration of using the earth's basic elements, such as the sun, water and air to efficiently heat and cool the building. However, the research indicated that not all existing commercial buildings are properly oriented to take full advantage of the earth's natural elements. In this case, efficient mechanical systems were introduced to supplement the design.

In the near future it will be important to ensure that building codes are published with efficiency increases, and that all states adopt the new codes. Many of these policies should also incorporate measures and stipulations that are especially suited to encourage higher efficiency through retrofits and renovations in existing commercial buildings. The most important lesson learned through this research when trying to retrofit an existing commercial building is to continually monitor energy usage and communicate openly with employees. Workers spend over eight hours a day in their place of employment, more than they spend sleeping or spending time with their families. By using monitoring software, energy usage can be collected, analyzed, and mended if necessary, saving businesses money and creating a healthier work environment which bolsters productivity.


Architecture and energy conservation; Buildings repair and reconstruction; Commercial buildings energy conservation; Las Vegas (Nev.); Nevada; Southwest; New; Sustainable buildings


Architecture | Environmental Design

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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