The Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon opens to the public today on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
The bi-annual competition challenges college students from around the world to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, highly energy efficient, attractive, and easy to live in.
The competition has become a showcase for cutting-edge ideas on green living, drawing thousands of visitors who want to see firsthand what homes of the near future could look like.
Houses will open to the public free of charge September 23 – October 2, and the overall winner will be announced on October 1.
This year, 19 teams are competing from as far away as New Zealand and China, as well as across the US.
The 2011 competition does not include a team from Germany, which took home the top prize in each of the two previous Decathlons.
The University of Maryland’s entry, "WaterShed," is inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, and showcases water conservation solutions in addition to solar energy.
WaterShed is a model of how the built environment can help preserve watersheds by managing storm water onsite, filtering pollutants from greywater, and minimizing water use. The solar PV and thermal arrays, the tightness of the building envelope, and efficiency of the mechanical systems vastly reduce energy compared to standard homes.
Watershed’s features include:
- A modular constructed wetland that helps filter and recycle greywater from the shower, clothes washer, and dishwasher
- A green roof that slows rainwater runoff to the landscape while improving the home’s energy efficiency
- A garden, an edible wall system, and a composting station illustrate the potential for improved health, energy, and cost savings with a complete carbon cycle program.
Here’s a video walkthrough of the house:
Learn about other teams and designs, and watch additional videos here: