When the dust settled on the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., the University of Maryland’s WaterShed house 2011.solarteam.org was declared the overall winner of the biennial competition.

“Maryland is a well-experienced team,” Solar Decathlon director Richard King told a crowd at an Oct. 1 press conference. “After taking second place in 2007, they rested and regrouped in 2009 and came to West Potomac Park in 2011 focused and determined to win.”

The DOE-sponsored decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. This year, organizers also added an affordability category to the mix.

Inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, the WaterShed house proposes solutions to water and energy shortages. “The concept of water led the design process,” says fourth-year architecture student Parlin Meyer. “Not only conservation but water use, giving visitors an idea of how a house relates to water.”

The school says the butterfly roofed house is a model of how the built environment can help preserve watersheds by managing stormwater on site, filtering pollutants from graywater, and minimizing water use.

Maryland won the competition with a total of 951.151 points (out of a possible 1,000), consistently scoring high marks for all categories, including a win in the architecture section. Architect Michelle Kaufmann, AIA, LEED AP, a juror in the architecture contest, said the home “achieves an elegant mix of inspiration, function, and simplicity.”

While Maryland took home the overall prize, Appalachian State University won the People’s Choice Award for its Solar Homestead

, a net-zero energy confection inspired by early traditional Appalachian settlements. The home, which placed third in the architecture competition, consists of six outbuildings connected by the Great Porch—an outdoor living space protected by an 8.2-kilowatt trellis of bifacial solar cells.