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University of Maryland students place first nationally in Solar Decathlon competition

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Architecture students are accustomed to designing structures; but nothing like reACT.

Malik Johnson Williams is a graduate student at the University of Maryland in College Park who helped design the energy-efficient, solar-powered home.

"It's been incredible to really go through the entire design process from drawings to full construction and seeing how everything gets put together," he told ABC7 News.

ReACT stands for resilient Adaptive Climate Technology.

Alla Elmahadi is one of about 400 students who contributed to the project.

"I think what made our house stand out was this really strong integration between architecture and engineering and sort of the innovative ideas we put forward," Elmahadi said.

The house features a hydroponic garden, a courtyard with living walls, predictive automation, and design features that make future upgrades simpler.

Garth Rockcastle is an architecture professor at Maryland who helped lead the project. He described it as: "A super smart house where it actually anticipates weather and it knows that if three days from now it's going to get colder it has the capacity to start storing heat."

The house took two years to design and construct. In October, it was ready for competition at the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon in Denver. Judges were impressed.

ReACT placed second in the world and first in the United States. The win carries a cash prize of $225,000 and represents the third national win for Maryland. In 2007, the team came in first place in the U.S. and was first in the U.S. and world in 2011.

Students say being a part of the project has changed their perspective. Williams explained, "It's also made me rethink about what is sustainability and how do we create sustainable communities that will continue on into generations?"

The solar-powered home will be used as a research and education center at the University of Maryland.

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