UT students create self-sustainable housing project

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Photo Credit: Jack DuFon | Daily Texan Staff

UT students are partnering with students at Technische Universität München, a German university, to create a self-sustainable housing project that could become the solution for Austin’s problems with food, water and energy efficiency and conservation problems, according to architecture assistant professor Petra Liedl.

The housing project, NexusHaus, will come to Austin in October, after the conclusion of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a nationwide university competition where colleges race to build the best self-sustainable home

Regardless of the outcome, UT’s student-led team will bring their home to Austin as a model for self-sustainability the city can use, according to Liedl, who leads the project.

“What we’re doing with NexusHaus is an integration of food and water sustainability, along with other renewable resources, that we can bring back to this city to improve our self-sustainability,” Liedl said.

Self-sustainability has become more important in Austin because of reduced resources, such as water, according to Liedl.

Speakers discussed the project at a lecture Tuesday as part of UT Energy Week, a week-long University conference aimed at bringing attention to vital energy issues to society.

Liedl said students are currently fundraising for the house and want to make sure it is affordable to build and live in. 

Robert Stefani, conservation program specialist at Austin Water Utility, said Austin has depleted its water supply because there is not enough inflow from rivers to lakes. The NexusHaus project will be a model for solutions such as for food production and rainwater harvesting for drinking water, Stefani said.

“The main message [of NexusHaus] is the innovative use of on-site resources,” Stefani said. “Because it’s all [city] code compliant, we can bring it to design professionals to plug and play within our local communities.”

The NexusHaus will also provide tools for self-sustainable food production. This is important because Austinites throw away a lot of food, according to Edwin Marty, Austin’s food policy manager in the Office of Sustainability.

The city wastes more than 421,500,000 pounds of food per year, which costs $208 million, Marty said. The NexusHaus model could provide a guideline to help decrease food waste and improve food resources, he said.

“To increase the whole food production, we’ve got to look at water usage and creating much more usable systems,” Marty said. “We can decrease the resources to produce the food and do it right here in our backyards.”