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House with an edible wall: Runs on sun, wind, rain and wastes

April 22, 2010
University of Maryland, College Park
Students and researchers are constructing a house to run on solar power, as well as harness wind, rain and the building's wastes. Its also features include an edible wall.

A team of University of Maryland students, faculty and mentors has earned one of 20 coveted spots in the international U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 to be staged on the National Mall next year.

For the Decathlon, the Maryland team is constructing a house to run on solar power, as well as harness wind, rain and the building's wastes. Its features include an edible wall.

The biennial competition challenges students and faculty to design and build a house fully and creatively powered by the sun.

It's the fourth time a Terp team has made it to the finals. In 2007, Maryland's LEAFHouse entry led all U.S. designs and captured second in the competition.

"This year's conceptual design, WaterShed, begins where LEAFHouse left off," says Amy Gardner, associate professor of architecture and principal investigator for Maryland's Solar Decathlon 2011 effort.

WaterShed, strives to create a mini-eco-system, that efficiently captures and fully utilizes the energy of sun, wind and rain, as well as household 'wastes' that retain valuable energy and nutritional resources.

The house is formed by two rectangular units capped by a butterfly roof, which is well-suited to capturing and using sunlight and rainwater.

The spacious and affordable house features:

  • A rooftop photovoltaic array;
  • An edible green wall and garden;
  • Innovative, smart technologies to control temperature, ventilation, humidity, and light;
  • Building and finish materials that are beautiful, sustainable, cost-effective and durable.

"Our goal for WaterShed is to produce an eco-system whose efficiency comes from the interconnectedness of building, site, and the people who inhabit them," says Gardner.

Nearly 300 students from architecture, engineering, environmental science and technology, landscape architecture and other disciplines will help bring WaterShed to life, in partnership with a multi-disciplinary faculty team.

"In the past, teams have put in long, long hours and their dedication, creativity and collaborative spirit have been keys to our success," Gardner points out. "This year, the project will benefit from the UM tradition of an integrated, inter-generational team, with voices both fresh and seasoned, encompassing a depth and breadth of mentors and students from varied disciplines."

A series of Decathlon-related courses offered across the University, beginning in fall 2009 and continuing through fall 2011, form the base structure for Maryland students' participation. Courses are offered in Architecture, Engineering and Agriculture and Natural Resources, and students can also volunteer to help on an extracurricular basis.

Garth Rockcastle, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation says, "The Solar Decathlon effort resonates with the School's priorities of sustainability and building craft. It also provides our students a unique opportunity to make connections with peers and mentors from other units within the University and building professions."

A Terp team took part in the first Solar Decathlon in 2002, placing fourth with a house that demonstrated not only the practicality of solar energy in residential design, but also the ability of Maryland students to plan, manage and complete a major, multi-year interdisciplinary design project.

The 2005 team built on that experience to create a house that received the People's Choice Award, the BP Solar Innovation Award and a Safety Award Honorable Mention.

LEAFHouse, Maryland's Solar Decathlon 2007 entry, garnered second place overall, with first or second place in five of the individual contests, the Peoples' Choice Award and several industry awards including: the ASHRAE award for "Integration for Renewables for Sustainable Living" and the NAHB Marketing Curb Appeal First Place Award.

The 20 teams selected for the Solar Decathlon 2011 are geographically and academically diverse, hailing from the U.S., Belgium, China and New Zealand and representing colleges and universities large and small.Team selection began with a call for written proposals in fall 2009, followed by a conceptual design submission in March 2010.

The Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, energy-efficient and attractive. The competition's top prize will go to the team that best balances cost-effectiveness, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The final entries will be publicly displayed and judged on the National Mall in October 2011.

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Materials provided by University of Maryland, College Park. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Cite This Page:

University of Maryland, College Park. "House with an edible wall: Runs on sun, wind, rain and wastes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2010. <>.
University of Maryland, College Park. (2010, April 22). House with an edible wall: Runs on sun, wind, rain and wastes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2024 from
University of Maryland, College Park. "House with an edible wall: Runs on sun, wind, rain and wastes." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 18, 2024).

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