The University of Maryland team’s house emphasizes water reuse and home gardening with Native Americans in mind, as the school has ties with the St. Croix Chippewa band of the Ojibwe tribe in Wisconsin. Exterior: (Dennis Schroeder/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon) (Dennis Schroeder/NREL)

A team of students from the University of Maryland took second place Saturday for its design of a future-looking energy-efficient home at a “Solar Decathlon” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Over nine days in Denver, nearly a dozen homes were evaluated for their energy performance, livability and market potential. The Maryland house stood out for its water-reuse system and emphasis on home gardening.

“This prestigious competition engages students from across the country and internationally to develop the skills and knowledge to become the next generation of energy experts,” said Linda Silverman, director of the Solar Decathlon.

The U-Md. house incorporates influences from Nanticoke and Maryland tribal traditions. In addition to solar power, it features a composting toilet, a water-filtration system, a hydroponic garden and a greenhouse and courtyard that can harvest heat energy. It also has a solar-powered clothes dryer and food dehydrator to encourage food storage and self-sufficiency.

It also has a modular “kit of parts” design with rooms that can be assembled or disassembled to allow the footprint of the house to change based on the owner’s needs.

A look at the interior of the University of Maryland team’s house. (Dennis Schroeder/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon) (Dennis Schroeder/NREL)

The team simulated a number of everyday tasks, such as cooking, doing laundry and washing dishes, to test the energy efficiency and livability of the home. Through the course of the exhibition, the Maryland house produced more energy than it consumed.

First place in the contest went to a team from Switzerland, which earned a perfect score on the engineering component. Third place went to a team of students from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Denver.

The College Park team had about two dozen core members, including students from architecture, engineering, interior design, business and marketing who began their work more than 18 months ago.

“We watched it develop from a line on a piece of paper to a real thing,” said Alla Elmahadi, 26, a graduate student in architecture and real estate development at U-Md. and a construction manager for the project.

The team built the house in modules, which were loaded onto trucks and shipped to Denver. The house was completed during an eight-day assembly period before the contest began, Elmahadi said.

Now that the contest is over, the house will be shipped back to Maryland and placed in a sustainability park next to a house that won second place in the 2007 Solar Decathlon, where it, too, can be used for research and education.

Elmahadi said she plans to graduate next winter and build a career in sustainable design and architecture.

“This is a great start to where I want to go in life,” she said.