Last week, hundreds of Maryland drivers witnessed something not seen every day on Washington-area roads: a procession of cars, police vehicles, bucket trucks and a house, carefully making their way from College Park to Rockville. The show-stopping attraction marked University of Maryland’s official transfer of ownership of WaterShed, its first-place winning entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, to electric service provider Pepco. With an approximate length of four city blocks, the entourage’s 24-mile trip to WaterShed’s new, permanent location—Pepco’s Rockville facility— was the satisfying final leg of a two and a half year journey for the WaterShed team.
“Many of the students found it bittersweet, but I am thrilled for WaterShed,” said Brian Grieb, WaterShed’s Project Manager and Faculty Advisor. “It’s fantastic to know that the house and its mission will live on, that Pepco will carry our torch and build upon what the team had started years ago. It couldn’t go to a better owner.”
Prior to the move, Maryland and PEPCO celebrated the milestone with a ceremonial check presentation at WaterShed’s construction site, attended by representatives from Pepco, the WaterShed team and the University. The house was then loaded onto two large 70-foot carriers and a sixteen-foot flatbed trailer and escorted to its new home by four Pepco bucket trucks, a team from Maryland Custom Builders, state and local police and a small army of WaterShed team members. With an average speed of about five miles an hour, the journey took six hours to complete, and gathered a lot of attention. For team members, the excitement was palpable.
“Good ideas can be contagious, drawing people in to build upon them,” says Amy Gardner, principal investigator of WaterShed. “WaterShed is a great example of how good ideas build that kind of momentum. The crews helping with our move that night knew little about the overall project at the outset of the journey, yet embraced it with the same care and enthusiasm as the team members. It was inspiring to watch and a good omen for WaterShed’s future.”
“It went great,” says Taz Ezzat, president of Maryland Custom Builders, Inc., who handled the physical transfer to the Rockville site. “There were of course obstacles and a surprising amount of traffic for that time of night, but we took our time and it went very smooth. The excitement was just incredible.”
With WaterShed now on its permanent site, plans will soon begin for reassembly. Faculty and students from the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the Clark School of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will join WaterShed mentors and Pepco engineers to create an integrated plan for WaterShed’s permanent installation. With WaterShed’s mission at the core of the reconstruction, the team will work to develop a foundation for the house, greywater and rainwater systems, wetlands and landscape design, marrying the house to the new site. A knowledgeable supporter and mentor of WaterShed since its inception, Maryland Custom Builders will work with Pepco to handle the reassembly, with many of WaterShed’s original student team members assisting in this process. Pepco aims to open WaterShed to the public by early summer.
”This is an exciting next chapter for WaterShed,” says David Cronrath, Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation. “We look forward to our continued partnership with Pepco in sharing WaterShed’s mission, inspiring the public and educating generations to come.”
The University announced WaterShed’s sale to Pepco in January. Under its new ownership, the solar-powered home will continue to further its message of sustainable living through smart design. Pepco plans to use the solar house as a “living classroom,” both as a public teaching tool and as a technology testing center for some of the company’s newer residential innovations, such as smart thermostats and electric vehicle charging. Under the arrangement, Pepco and the University will continue to collaborate on its operation and performance, and will work closely on designing educational materials about WaterShed. Pepco’s hope is that students will continue to be involved as ambassadors and guides, sharing their vision with the public.
“I see the relationship continuing to build,” says Grieb. “Seeing how WaterShed operates over the course of a year, through different seasons, is something we haven’t been able to see yet, and are anxious to explore. It is an integral part of the learning process.”
The School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the University of Maryland is home to four academic disciplines: architecture, urban planning, historic preservation and real estate development. Committed to educating its students and community about the importance of sustainability and smart growth, the School practices an interdisciplinary approach to education, research, creative work, and community and professional service. For more information, please e-mail us or call 301.405.8000.
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