Sunday, October 2, 2011

UMD's "Watershed" Wins Solar Decathalon, Protects Chesapeake Bay

The University of Maryland took first place Saturday in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2011 with a solar-powered, energy-conserving WaterShed House that not only produces lots of solar power, but also incorporates many eco-friendly aspects that help to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

A team of 200 Maryland students, faculty and mentors from multiple disciplines designed and built WaterShed to blend solar energy efficiency and water conservation. They drew their inspiration from the Chesapeake Bay.

Below are some  highlights from the Watershed website.

WaterShed is a solar-powered home inspired and guided by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, interconnecting the house with its landscape, and leading its dwellers toward a more sustainable lifestyle. 

The house is formed by two rectangular modules capped by a split-butterfly roof that is well-suited to capturing and using sunlight and rainwater. The spacious and affordable house features:
  • constructed wetlands, filtering storm water and grey water for reuse
  • a green roof, retaining stormwater and minimizing the heat island effect
  • an optimally sized photovoltaic array, harvesting enough energy from the sun to power WaterShed year-round
  • edible landscapes, supporting community-based agriculture
  • a liquid desiccant waterfall, providing high-efficiency humidity control in the form of an indoor water feature
  • a solar thermal array, supplying enough energy to provide all domestic hot water, desiccant regeneration, and supplemental space heating
  • engineering systems, working in harmony and each acting to increase the effectiveness of the others
  • a time-tested structural system that is efficient, cost-effective, and durable

WaterShed’s inspiration comes from the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Covering 64,000 square miles across six states and the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay watershed includes over 100,000 smaller rivers and streams that eventually drain into the Bay. The bay itself is the largest estuary, or body of water where fresh and saltwater mix, in the United States. 

The Chesapeake Bay has a complex balance of salinity and nutrients that must be maintained. Nearly 4000 species of plants, fish, and animals rely on the Bay’s unique environment to survive. Water runoff from the 16.6 million human inhabitants of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the cities, towns, power plants, and farms that make their lives possible upsets this subtle ecological balance in catastrophic ways. The long-term success of this ecosystem is challenged by inadequate storm water management systems combined with expanding development of houses, businesses, and infrastructure that increasingly put pressure on the Bay.

WaterShed brings attention to the threats the Bay faces. Its design serves as a model for how our built environment can help preserve the richness of watersheds everywhere by managing storm water on site, filtering pollutants from grey water, and minimizing water usage.

Congratulations to this team for their inspiring efforts!

To learn more about this project, visit the Watershed website.

Website by Water Words That Work LLC