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Photo of Solar Decathlon Director Richard King being interviewed by a videographer.

Solar Decathlon 2011 Winner Opens as Educational Research Center

Thursday, June 12, 2014

By Carol Laurie

The University of Maryland’s WaterShed, which took first place in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, recently opened to the public as the Pepco WaterShed Sustainability Center—a living classroom and laboratory for sustainable energy practices.

In its new home, WaterShed will continue its mission to educate the public about the beauty and versatility of sustainable design. Pepco Holdings Inc. acquired WaterShed in 2012 and worked with the 2011 student team to relocate it to a 5,000-ft2 site adjacent to Pepco’s Rockville Service Center in Maryland. Pepco, the electric service provider to Maryland and Washington, D.C., was a long-time sponsor and strong supporter of U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon events in Washington, D.C.

The Pepco WaterShed Sustainability Center features interactive displays that educate visitors about energy-saving ideas—such as smart thermostats, ground and rooftop-mounted solar panels, electric vehicle charging ports, and smart meters—that they can apply in their own homes. The center is also a working laboratory for Pepco and the University of Maryland that focuses on energy efficiency and sustainable living.

WaterShed was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and represents a model for how a house can help preserve watersheds everywhere by managing storm water onsite, filtering pollutants from greywater, and minimizing water use. As the WaterShed Sustainability Center, the house features an additional wing along with the hallmarks of its winning design: a dual-purpose “butterfly roof” that captures both sunlight and rain water; an indoor, liquid desiccant waterfall for high-efficiency humidity control; edible landscapes that promote community-based agriculture; and constructed wetlands, which cleanse storm water and greywater for reuse.

“WaterShed has taken on a life way beyond its first life—it’s simply breathtaking,” said Amy Gardner, University of Maryland Solar Decathlon 2011 faculty lead. “Pepco has done such an amazing job not only assembling WaterShed but also building its landscape, a companion module in which they will do their testing and research, and beginning to build its outreach/K–12 program.”

WaterShed exemplifies the ongoing benefit of Solar Decathlon houses. Houses from prior events are now located throughout the United States and around the world, where they continue to serve education, conservation, and community-oriented functions. See the History section of our website for more information about where the houses are now.

The Pepco WaterShed Sustainability Center is located at 201 West Gude Drive in Rockville, Maryland, and is open to the public for guided tours Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Carol Laurie is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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