Building a green, sustainable home in the desert offers some challenges but it can be done. The biggest challenges are rain water catchment and keeping the house cool enough during the day and warm enough in the evenings.
Design a small home. The smaller the home, the easier it will be to cool and heat.
Situate your home on a lot, ensuring most windows facing south. Build the back of the home into a berm to create thermal mass. Do not add windows to the back of the home. Thermal mass and southern direction are key components to keep your home cool during the day and warm at night without using other energy sources.
Set up renewable energy such as windmills and solar panels.
Build a rain water catchment tank. Set up your rain gutters so that they collect rainwater from the roof and funnel it directly into your catchment tank in order to maximize the number of gallons you can collect.
Use locally found, natural building materials. In the desert, your best building material is probably cob. Cob is like adobe but you can sculpt it more freely. Cob is made up of sand, clay, soil, straw and water.
Fill in non-weight-bearing walls with recycled materials. You can make "bricks" with soda cans bundled together with wire and covered with the cob mixture. This helps to speed up the building process by taking up space in the cob. You can also put soda or wine bottles into the walls horizontally so that you can see the bottle bottoms and situate them so that light from the outdoors shines through them for an artistic effect.