U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon | Powered by the Sun

Solar Decathlon 2011

University of Maryland


Team website: 2011.solarteam.org

Inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, the University of Maryland returns to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 with WaterShed—an entry that proposes solutions to water and energy shortages. The house is a model of how the built environment can help preserve watersheds everywhere by managing storm water onsite, filtering pollutants from greywater, and minimizing water use. The photovoltaic and solar thermal arrays, effectiveness of the building envelope, and efficiency of the mechanical systems make WaterShed less thirsty for fossil fuels than standard homes.

Design Philosophy

The forms of the house highlight the path of a water drop. WaterShed's split butterfly roofline highlights storm water runoff from each module, directing and collecting it into the water axis at the core of the house. Water used within the house intersects this axis through a consolidated mechanical core.

Spatially, the house is designed as two "shed" modules slid apart along the central water axis and connected by a third module: the hyphen. The two larger modules express the programmatic intent of a live/work environment by physically separating the public and private realms. The hyphen houses the bathroom and highlights the connection between interior water uses and the wetland axis outside.


WaterShed's holistic approach to water conservation, recycling, and storm water management includes:

  • 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 house's energy efficiency

  • A garden, an edible wall system, and a composting station to illustrate the potential for improved health, energy, and cost savings with a complete carbon cycle program.


WaterShed features integrated systems that keep the house comfortable under a range of climatic conditions. These include:

  • The liquid desiccant waterfall, which serves as a design feature and provides humidity control

  • An engineering system that harnesses excess energy generated by the solar thermal array

  • A home automation system that monitors and adjusts temperature, humidity, lighting, and other parameters to provide maximum function with minimal impact on the environment.

Market Strategy

WaterShed is intended for a working couple that can use the house as home and office. This demographic is prevalent within the Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C ., markets, where there are many individual firms in the fields of consulting, law, and architecture. WaterShed is affordable because the upfront investment in energy‐ and water‐saving technologies eventually provides cost savings given the increasing cost of utilities. For people in the Washington, D.C., corridor, WaterShed provides the opportunity to telecommute, thus reducing travel expenses in one of the most congested areas of the country.


Amy Gardner
School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20741-1411
Phone: 301-405-6303

Photo of a group of people standing in a circle in a field. In the background is a body of water. Enlarge image

The University of Maryland Solar Decathlon team (courtesy of the University of Maryland Solar Decathlon team)

Illustration of WaterShed in a grassy setting. Enlarge image

A computer-generated rendering of the University of Maryland's Re_home (courtesy of the University of Maryland Solar Decathlon team).

A video walkthrough of the University of Maryland's Solar Decathlon house.

Neither the United States, nor the Department of Energy, nor the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness for any purpose of any technical resources or data attached or otherwise presented here as reference material.