Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Solar Decathlon Winner Relies Upon Computing Advances

October 2nd, 2011 / in policy, research horizons, Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani

DoE: Solar DecathlonFor 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.

After a stormy day, Maryland shines brightly at night on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon at West Potomac Park in Washington D.C., Sept. 23, 2011. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy)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:

WaterShed is the embodiment of a way of life that is in tune with the natural processes that surround us. The engineering design supports this relationship between nature and humans by using technology to inform homeowners about the impacts their actions within the home have on the surrounding landscape. WaterShed’s home automation system, called Smart House/Adaptive Control or SHAC, is an integrated network of sensors, controllers and software. SHAC automatically monitors and adjusts the temperature, humidity, brightness, and other parameters of the engineering systems to provide maximum function with the least amount of energy use and impact on the environment. The control system informs the homeowners of their energy and water consumption and provides suggestions for reducing unnecessary use of these important resources.


WaterShed is a house as ecosystem, an answer to today’s many questions about how to build a more sustainable future. The house’s engineering systems act as a unified, synergistic system which is as much a part of the environment as the water that flows through it.

Learn more about the Smart House/Adaptive Control system — along with all the other award-winning features of the Maryland team’s home — by taking a virtual tour:

As Secretary Chu noted, by capitalizing on the latest research advances, WaterShed — and all the other Solar Decathlon participants — are illustrating the value, power, and ease of cost-saving, more energy-efficient systems:

This competition to build innovative, highly energy-efficient homes has been two years making, and all of these teams must be commended for their hard work. The houses on display blend affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. These talented students are demonstrating to consumers the wide range of energy-saving solutions that are available today to save them money on their energy bills.

Check out the official website of the Solar Decathlon to see all 20 solar homes entered in this year’s competition.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

Solar Decathlon Winner Relies Upon Computing Advances

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