Design Tips for a House in the Desert

Designing a home for a desert climate comes with specific considerations. Because deserts are very hot and dry, homes need to be able to stay cool and conserve water. Design elements like thick walls, air-tight window and door seals, and efficient plumbing design can make a desert house more comfortable year-round. Home designers can even take advantage of the climate by installing green building elements like solar panels or rain collection systems.


Homes in desert climates need to stay cool and conserve water.
Adobe can be a great building material for walls in desert homes.

To control temperature inside the home, desert homes should be designed with thick walls made from adobe or covered with stucco. Adobe has been in use for thousands of years in desert dwellings, and it can be a great option for modern desert homes. Not only is adobe environmentally friendly, it has unique thermal properties that allow it to retain heat in the winter and keep out heat in the summer.

Air Flow

Air flow can also regulate temperature inside desert homes. Open floor plans allow for air to flow through the rooms, and windows on either end of the house can create cross breezes. A vaulted ceiling can allow hot air to rise away from living areas. Windows should be placed on north or south sides of the house so that they take advantage of cool evening breezes.

Windows & Doors

It is also important to have tight-fitting windows and doors in desert homes. Exterior doors should be thick and insulated to keep out heat. Windows should be inset or have awnings to deflect sun. Double-paned windows also provide more insulation. Window glass can also be treated with UV-blocking chemicals to help keep temperatures cool inside the home.


Desert building requires plumbing that conserves water.

Many desert climates get less than 10 inches of rain every year, so efficient plumbing systems are a must in desert climates where water conservation is a way of life. Low water usage appliances like toilets and showers should always be installed in desert homes.

Landscaping and Positioning

Using the beauty of the landscape in home design is part of desert style. Most desert homes are positioned for minimal sun exposure. The home should be longer than it is wide, with the shorter sides of the home facing east and west. Trees should also be planted on the short sides of the home to block the sun. An interior courtyard is a popular design element in desert homes, and a courtyard garden can provide shade and coolness to the home.

Green Building

Solar panels take advantage of hot desert sun.

Green building elements like solar panels and gray water systems are popular in desert home design. Because most desert homes have a lot of sun exposure, solar panels can be a great idea. Homeowners can not only power their own homes, but even put power back into the grid. "Gray water" systems can be a great way to conserve water in a desert home. A gray water system takes wastewater from toilets, dishwashers and laundry and cycles it through a cleaning and disinfecting system to produce recycled water for use.

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