For the past two weeks, the National Mall in Washington, DC, has been transformed into a neighborhood of futuristic homes, with 20 teams from five countries spanning four continents competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual Solar Decathlon – an award-winning program that challenges collegiate 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.” Late Saturday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the winners — and the team from the University of Maryland took home first place, scoring 951.151 points out of a possible 1,000.
The Maryland team’s home – called WaterShed – harvests, recycles, and reuses water, conserving and producing resources with the water it captures. According to the team’s website, “Inspired by the rich, complex ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the home displays harmony between modernity, tradition, and simple building strategies, balancing time-trusted best practices and cutting-edge technological solutions to achieve high efficiency performance in an affordable manner.”
So what helped WaterShed outpace its competitors? Turns out the home has a specially-built automation system comprising an integrated network of sensors, controllers, and software: