A green home designed and built by University of Maryland students took top overall honors in this year’s U.S. Energy Department Solar Decathlon, which aims to showcase innovative and affordable solar-powered homes.

Maryland took second place in the 2007 decathlon but sat out the 2009 competition. Richard King, the Energy Department’s Solar Decathlon director, said taking that break allowed students and faculty to develop the strongest possible entry this year.

“They came in and they knew what they were doing,” King said. “They also had just a brilliant design solution. It wasn’t just a solar house; it was incorporating everything it had to have to be sustainable.”

He added that “even with seven cloudy days out of nine,” the team’s house had an energy surplus by the end of the competition.

U-Md.’s winning home, WaterShed, was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. It features a green roof that provides insulation and a system that filters sink and shower water, recycling it for use in wetland gardens that run the length of the house.

Nineteen collegiate teams from as far away as China and New Zealand traveled to Washington to compete in this year’s event, the fifth Solar Decathlon since 2002.

After spending two years preparing for the decathlon, the teams had just one week in mid-September to construct their solar homes in West Potomac Park.

Judges rated the teams’ entries in 10 categories, including energy efficiency, cost effectiveness and aesthetic appeal.

Purdue University took second place overall with a design firmly rooted in the modest homes of Midwest suburbia. A team from New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington took third.

The homes will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the last day of this year’s event.

The next Solar Decathlon is scheduled for fall 2013.