27 February 2013 — A team from the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra is taking part in the 2013 Solar Decathlon China.

The team will build a house titled the “Illawarra Flame”, which is the first entry in a solar decathlon with the aim to demonstrate “how to retrofit a fibro home, and to transform it into a sustainable 21st century, net zero energy home”.

The solar decathlon competition, which has been running for 10 years, is the highest profile, interdisciplinary student-led green building research and innovation competition in the world. It is a joint initiative by the US Department of Energy and the China National Energy Administration.

Team spokesman Nicholas Underhill said the competition, described as the “Energy Olympics” challenged teams to design, build and operate net-zero energy, solar powered houses that were also cost effective.

“This year the competition has been organised by Peking University, will take place in Datong, China and is expected to attract around half a million spectators.

“Our team is made up of a diverse group of passionate students from the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra.

“With an advisory group of industry professionals and academics, we are developing a world-class house called the ‘Illawarra Flame’.

“It is the first and only entry in a solar decathlon to demonstrate the retrofit of an existing home.”

Mr Underhill said the Illawarra Flame team was the first Australian team to gain entry to a solar decathlon competition.

The house

The team will demonstrate “how to retrofit a fibro home, and to transform it into a sustainable 21st century, net zero energy home”.

“The aim is to inspire our local and national building industry and the general community, and to demonstrate that it is possible to transform the vast majority of Australian homes into stylish, affordable, and sustainable homes of the future,” the team’s website says.

“The Illawarra Flame Australia is inspired by the Illawarra Flame Tree, which is native to the eastern seaboard of Australia.

“Team UOW will seek to retain the essential architecture of the dwelling to ensure the retrofitted building will sit comfortably in the suburban environment and be socially accessible to the market.

“The building form and architectural features are determined by the existing building, which will be retained where possible to provide an affordable and practical solution to preserving existing housing stock, while reducing the waste associated with demolition.

“However, certain features of the house will be modified to enhance the functionality of the layout, and to increase natural lighting, solar access and cross flow ventilation, which will greatly improve the liveability of the home.”