Exterior architectural view of the winning house. (Jim Tetro/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)
The University of Maryland has won top honors at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 by designing, building, and operating the most cost-effective, energy efficient, and attractive solar-powered house. Purdue University took second place followed by New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington) in third.

The Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate students from around the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, highly energy efficient, attractive, and easy to live in. The competition shows consumers how to save money and energy with affordable clean energy products that are available today. The nearly two-year project culminated in a display of affordable green living and design on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington D.C. from September 23 – October 2, 2011.

All teams competed in ten contests over ten days that gauged each house’s performance, livability, and affordability. The teams performed everyday tasks, including cooking, laundry, and washing dishes, that tested the energy efficiency of their houses. After all contest results were tallied, Maryland earned 951.151 points out of a possible 1,000 to win the competition, followed by Purdue with 931.390 points, and New Zealand with 919.058 points.

The results of the Market Appeal Contest also were announced, with Middlebury College taking first place by scoring 95 out of 100 possible points. The Market Appeal Contest evaluates the livability of each house and its appeal within the housing market. The University of Maryland placed second in Market Appeal, scoring 94 points, which helped solidify their lead in the overall competition. New Zealand placed third in Market Appeal, scoring 93 points in the contest, which helped propel them from fourth place overall into third place in the final competition.

Student teams in the 2011 competition hailed from five countries across four continents, including the United States, Belgium, Canada, China and New Zealand. The application process for the sixth U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, to be held in fall 2013, has already begun with applications available online for collegiate teams.

The video below provides a walk-through of the winning house, which is named WaterShed.

(Solar Decathlon)