University of Maryland Wins Solar Decathlon



This year’s Department of Energy sponsored Solar Decathlon 2011 winner was the team from University of Maryland with their WaterShed home. Design of the home focused on four guiding principles which were; water is a precious resource and should be handled as such, homes should function as micro-ecosystems, sustainable homes should conserve and produce resources, and merging passive and active energy strategies is the most effective way to create a home in tune with its environment.

WaterShed is built around the central concept of reusing and recycling water. A “green roof”, native surrounding plants, and constructed wet lands store and purify rainwater which can then be used for irrigation or released into the local watershed (where it gets its namesake). This means the home essentially acts as a filtration device that leaves the local environment cleaner. There are two primary buildings with roofs slanted towards each other. In the middle of these is a bathroom section that connects the two modules. Rain is collected by the roofs and directed towards the middle of the two buildings running off to the constructed wetlands at ground level. Waste water from the shower and sink are collected in a cistern and used for irrigation of the surrounding native plants which fill the home’s surrounding landscape.

Additionally the home makes use of a Liquid Dessicant Waterfall which absorbs water from the air reducing the energy cost for air conditioning. It also included photovoltaic and solar hot water panels on the non-”green roof” building portion and home automation software to optimize heating and cooling.

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