For the University of Maryland's 2011 Solar Decathlon team, the goal is to build a home powered completely by the sun, but as crunch time approaches, the work continues long after the sun sets.
The competition, which begins Sept. 23 at West Potomac Park, challenges teams to design and build solar-powered homes that are not only affordable and attractive, but energy-efficient as well.
Maryland's entry includes over 40 solar panels and team members say that they take plenty of inspiration from the nearby Chesapeake Bay.
"The fact that it has a complex ecosystem...we tried to mimic that in our house," Leah Davies, an architecture graduate student, says.
The house, dubbed "Watershed," is is a two-unit home with sloping roofs, connected by a bathroom. Butterfly-pitched roofs allow rainwater to be collected and filtered into wetlands. Native Maryland plants and an edible garden will also surround the home.
"Water that goes through our holding tank should be cleaner than rainwater coming out of the sky," landscape architecture grad student Matt Sickle says.
The team is on track to complete construction on the house next week, but before the competition, they'll have to disassemble the home, take it to the National Mall on trailers and put it back together.
But will the school's iconic Testudo make an appearance in the house?
"I don't know if there are any plans for a terrapin as part of our site," Sickle says. "Maybe if we build this well enough, maybe one will wander out of the Potomac and into the house."