Gallery: LEAFHOUSE: Maryland’s Solar Decathlon Zero Energy Home


The second place winner of this year’s Solar Decathlon is the University of Maryland’s Leaf House, which is, as the name would imply, green, naturally inspired, and modular to boot. When designing the zero energy home, the student team drew inspiration from the simple, yet vastly complex leaf. The abode boasts every sustainable system from the obvious high-tech solar panels to a liquid desiccant waterfall to control humidity, grey water recycling, green wall, and even a plug to charge an electric car.

In concept, the Leaf House hoped to meet goals like creating an open and flexible space, connecting to the landscape, material responsibility and durability, and energy efficiency. The team addressed the need for transformability in today’s housing using a series of movable, translucent panels that transform a small house into a large space. The modular approach lends itself to both easily housing the green systems as well as constant flexibility of space.

The photovoltaic system which spans the entire sloped roof provides 100% of the electrical energy to the home and solar hot water tubes, and is all monitored by the adaptive control energy monitor system. The most innovative feature of the Maryland house may be the indoor waterfall—a liquid desiccant wall system that’s used to control humidity. As far as the team knows, such a system has never been used for a home. A grey water system also helps the recycling, filtering, and storage of water.

University of Maryland Placed fourth in 2002, and won the People’s Choice Award in 2005, and this year the gorgeous green home took second place in the Solar Decathlon Competition.


+ University of Maryland Solar Decathlon Team

+ Solar Decathlon Competition

+ Inhabitat’s photo coverage of the event


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  1. flyers1210 July 10, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I just saw the competition on Planet Green discovery network… I am blown away by the leaf house! Awesome job to all those who participated in building it. Do you have that house on display somewhere? I would love to check it out… my next home will be off the grid for sure after seeing what is possible. The design and natural light is perfect, what an inspiration!

  2. Amy Gardner November 24, 2007 at 8:53 am

    As a faculty advisor to LEAFHouse, I’d like to respond to some of these posts:

    To Stan and JoAnne: Please see our website, the Contacts page, and send me message through the website:

    The project costs posted in these responses from LEAFHouse team members include total teaching and administrative costs. The house construction costs were $448,000. For more detailed info on costs, see our website:

  3. Stanley Watkins November 21, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Is it possible to purchase plans for the Leaf House? I have an ideal site for a Leaf House (Eastern Shore).
    Have tried to put together a house on my own but your house is far better than my concept.
    Stanley Watkins

  4. JoAnne November 3, 2007 at 1:32 am

    I would love to have my transformed into an energy efficient home. Anytime you are are looking for a “project” home I have one:)

  5. Diane Drinkwater November 1, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Wow, this is the sort of house I’d love to live in. The UK press is currently running news items about the impending energy crisis and with a little forward planning we could spend the money they want to spend on nuclear power stations on renewable energy sources. A little green energy at every house would be an amazing project for a government to undertake.
    All new homes should have inbuilt energy saving and green energy.

  6. Engineobi.Com » L... October 28, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    […] wrote an interesting post today on LEAFHOUSE: Marylandâs Solar Decathlon Zero Energy HomeHere’s a quick […]

  7. Trish October 22, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Congratulations to the Univ of Maryland… The interior design is right up my alley!

  8. Debbie Bauer October 21, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    This is a response to Jay Fitz from a LEAFHouse team member.

    The cost to build the 800 sf ‘competition model’, with one bedroom and one bath, is $540,000. If it were market-ready, the cost per square foot would be $228. What we call LEAFHouse 1600, the ’empty nest model’ (two bedrooms, two baths), would come in at $218. These costs will be more or less expensive depending on the real estate market in a particular location; for the Washington DC metro area, they are quite ‘affordable’ in comparison to the price of an average single-family home.

    Jay’s questions address the larger issue of ‘who gets to live green?’ He implies that a green home should be affordable by anyone who, say, recycles, practices water conservation, and uses public transportation rather than a gasoline-fueled car. By this standard, homeless people should be able to own such a house, because they have arguably the smallest ecological footprint among us. Jay, I don’t agree with your logic here, and possibly also your politics, but I want you to know that that LEAFHouse team has taken very seriously the issue of how accessible solar energy is to the ordinary citizen.

    As well as alluding to the leaf as nature’s universal solar panel, LEAF stands for Leading Everyone to an Abundant Future. This is a future in which people in all sectors of society and parts of the globe can make use of the immense energy of the sun that shines on them, rather than being dependent on access to oil, coal or natural gas. The politicians in our country need to get the message that the solar energy industry needs long-term tax incentives in order to invest in research and development of products that are much lower in cost than they are now. The University of Maryland LEAFHouse team took it upon themselves to lobby Maryland legislators at the state and national level, and hosted Department of Energy Secretary Bodman and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader, while LEAFHouse was on the National Mall. We wanted to make the point that solar energy can support a comfortable, energy-efficient and beautiful home, and that we expect our politicians to change the rules so that more and more such homes can be created.

  9. John October 21, 2007 at 10:49 pm


    1) $550,000, as built

    2) Only if he or she has half a million dollars to spend. The house is a one-off custom-built house, one of the most expensive ways to construct a home. It was also overloaded with features more appropriate for a larger home, but absolutely necessary from a competition point of view. Team Darmstadt is rumored to have spend 1.2 million euros on thieir house, though about $400,000 went into transportation costs.

    3) While the house is not LEED certified (one more thing to ask of an overloaded student crew), we used LEED as a guiding principle in our construction and materials selection. We arrived at many FSC certified materials, parts or components, or items that were deliberately selected due to their 500-mile proximity to College Park, as well as finishes that were soy based, zero voc, or both.

    4) We’re proud that we fit every thing you would find in a normal home into an 800-square-foot footprint– including closets. Our goal was to produce a home that was both minimalist and livable, in the hopes of encouraging people to think twice before buying a McMansion.

  10. Green Is Beautiful: LEA... October 21, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    […] Inhabitat » LEAFHOUSE: Maryland’s Solar Decathlon Zero Energy Home Posted in Environment, Green, conservation, energy, global warming. […]

  11. Den October 21, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    I hope that photos of the Morningstar house are on the cards? Please.

  12. Jay Fitz October 21, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    A couple of questions:

    1) What does it cost to build?

    2) Can the build cost of this “green” home be afforded by anyone who lives a ecologically benign minimal footprint lifestyle?

    3) If not, how green is it?

    4) Isn’t this just another attempt to give capitalist consumerism a green tinge?

  13. Ralph Bennett October 21, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Great coverage, excellent pictures, neat house. Last award: People’s Choice #1 announced late Saturday.

  14. Dave October 20, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    Check out the Maryland website:

  15. Mark October 20, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    I had the pleasure of working with the students and faculty involved in the leafhouse project and it was very gratifying to see lines of visitors lined up this morning on the National Mall to see the MD house. Congratulations on an impressive showing and lots of hard work.

  16. Mark Warner October 20, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    While I appreciate the effort of Michelle Kaufman, Cusato, Rocio Romero and other architects, to create new prefabs,I think they could all learn something from the beauty of the interior of this house, and its energy efficiency.

  17. Inhabitat » INHAB... October 20, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    […] University of Maryland’s green home took second place in the Solar Decathlon competition […]

  18. Tyler October 20, 2007 at 11:25 am

    “The most innovative feature of the Maryland house may be the indoor waterfall”…and yet not a single picture?!

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