WaterShed Project Finds Permanent Home

WaterShed features a liquid dessicant waterfall as part of an energy-efficient dehumifidication system.

The University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation announced this week that WaterShed, the prize-winning solar house built by students, faculty and professional partners, has found a buyer and a permanent site. Electric service provider Pepco is purchasing the high-tech building, and plans to locate it at one of its facilities in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The purchase secures WaterShed’s future and will make its innovative technology and design available to the public for educational purposes. Under the arrangement, Pepco and the university will partner on its operation, monitor its performance, conduct ongoing research and work closely on designing educational materials for the house.

The house will serve as a “living classroom” to demonstrate smart, clean energy options, blending its original technological and design innovations with Pepco’s own advanced technology, such as smart thermostats and home-based electric vehicle charging stations. It will be used for conferences, educational presentations and occasional public tours, and will also serve as an energy testing facility. Student team members will serve as docents, explaining the house’s capabilities and design features.

WaterShed was the winning project at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon last October, where it competed against 19 other collegiate teams in a challenge to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. Like all of the Decathlon entries, WaterShed runs solely on solar power; it is also constructed to harvest, recycle and reuse water, and features unique design elements, such as “manufactured wetlands” that protect and produce resources and a patent-pending indoor waterfall that provides humidity control in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

“The WaterShed team took on a double challenge when it built a house that would run on the sun and address a significant source of Chesapeake Bay pollution, so its first-place performance on the international stage was a major source of pride,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. “We’re extremely pleased that Pepco has agreed to provide a permanent home for WaterShed, so that its educational impact and research can continue.”

The utility’s commitment “ensures that WaterShed will continue to have a public voice,” said the project’s principal investigator Amy Gardner, an associate professor of architecture at the University Maryland.

The 200-member UMD Solar Decathlon Team includes students and faculty from the Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, and the University Libraries. Maryland businesses and professional groups provided significant financial and mentoring support as well.

Places is grateful for the support of a network of academic partners, all of which provide funding and advice. News items are provided by the partners.