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Solar Decathlon 2007

Podcasts: University of Maryland (Text Version)

Below is the text version of the podcast recorded by the University of Maryland Solar Decathlon team. Visit the Solar Decathlon Podcasts section to subscribe to the podcast or download individual audio files.

Male Speaker (MS):

This is a special 2007 Solar Decathlon edition of Energy Buzz, the podcast series produced by the Office of Energy, Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. Energy Buzz brings you expert information about renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Female Speaker (FS):

Welcome to LEAF House. We're the hometown entry from the University of Maryland in this year's Solar Decathlon. While you're waiting to visit, the students, faculty and community mentors who designed and built this amazing house want to give you a quick preview. The rest of this audio tour will take about four minutes. For more, visit our website at Do you know why we call it LEAF House? The leaf is nature's original solar collector. Our roofline looks like a leaf with a stem and veins across a big skylight.

Leaves fill our living wall that captures roof runoff before it gets to the Chesapeake Bay. Our leafy rain garden processes gray water from our sinks and drains. And LEAF stands for Leading Everyone to an Abundant Future, which is the ultimate goal of our team. We'd like everyone to live in a solar house someday and get free energy from the sun. Let me tell you how this house makes that possible. When you look at our house, notice how the indoors is connected to the outdoors visually and physically.

The engineering, the architecture, the site design are interlinked. For instance, an indoor waterfall takes moisture out of the air and makes it easier to cool. It circulates a liquid desiccate (ph.) that's recharged outside the house and then recycled back into the waterfall inside. And it all runs on heat from the roof. We capture energy by heating water on the roof to feed our faucets and the radiant heat in our floors. Once the hot water goes down the drain, we even recapture that heat too.

We capture more energy by letting sunlight in the south side through louvers when we need it. But we shut out the rest of the sun's heat with skylights so insulated you could hold a blow torch on one side and your hand on the other side and you wouldn't even feel the heat. Our roof panels generate seven kilowatts. That's enough to light 70 old-fashioned 100 watt bulbs. But we don't use those bulbs. We make our job easier by making every bit of energy saving technology we can, not just compact fluorescent bulbs but LED bulbs.

And the insulation in the walls, it's made of soy. Let me take off a few other things you'll see inside. The hearth of the LEAF house is a stove that uses magnets to heat your pots. It saves 90% of the energy. A fallen maple tree provides part of the countertop. The rest looks like corian but it's actually made from recycled concrete and fly ash. Recycled glass tiles line the shower. Fast-growing bamboo provides the cabinet fronts. The bed folds into the wall and sliding panels can make the bedroom space part of the living area.

A smart house system keeps everything working together so you don't have to go around turning on and off all of the technology. How much would all this cost? This house is like a Formula One race car. It's a testing ground for innovation. Could you afford it? Our analysis shows that through mass production, in formats from a two or three bedroom house up to garden apartments, you could buy a house like this for $180.00 a square foot. That's less than the typical architect designed house in this area.

And remember, no energy bills. Not only is the sun's energy free, it's abundant. Those of us who built this house know our careers in the future will revolve around this clean energy. Foreign oil, peak oil, pollution and global warming now those are too expensive. Just 18 inches of sea level rise would double the width of the Chesapeake Bay, and that's from our energy-intensive lifestyles. Simple living in beautiful, creatively designed homes like this one will help us all make it to that abundant future.

Oh, and one more thing. Before you leave today, please pick up a brochure and fill out the pledge form and postcard inside. We'd like to know what will you do to be part of the clean energy solution, and we'd like congress to know too by sending them your postcard. For more information and updates go to And thank you for visiting the University of Maryland's LEAF house.


This has been a special edition of Energy Buzz. To learn more about the Solar Decathlon go to For more about the world of energy efficiency and renewable energy log onto the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website at Thank you for listening.