A team from the University of Wollongong UOW and TAFE Illawarra Institute have won a coveted international competition to design a zero-emissions solar home, the teams entry – a retro-fitted Aussie fibro shack – beat-off 24 other entrants to place first in the solar, engineering and architecture categories, with a team from China coming in a sound second.
It’s the first time an Australian team has entered the Solar Decathlon – held in Datong, China since 2002 – the 51-strong team built the Flame House to inspire the Australian community, housing and building industries to embrace sustainable retrofitting technologies.
The retrofitted fibro cottage was also designed to appeal to older builders nearing retirement. The team aimed at building a sustainable home that would sit comfortably in it’s suburban environment ::::
The teams entry into the 2013 Solar Decathlon was accepted in December 2011, the team has been working solidly toward this win. The projects home is the first in any Solar Decathlon to embrace the upgrade of an existing building, go team!
Project Manager Lloyd Niccol says the competition is about producing a home that is comfortable and generates more energy than it consumes.
“We’re trying to find some way to make an immediately and positive impact on our environment,” Mr Niccol said. “There are eight million homes existing in Australia, and quite a few hundred thousand fibro homes. Only 2 per cent of those are replaced every year, so if we do want to make a real impact…we thought the best way to do that is to retrofit our homes. So it’s showing how you can bring the typical home built in the 1950s into the current modern age so its comfortable, its got all the amenities you require, and it produces more energy than it consumes.”
The Solar Decathlon is co-hosted by the US Department of Energy and the National Energy Administration China. It challenges university teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.
Take a walk through the Illawarra Flame House and find out why this is the home for the future. Learn more about the innovations and features of the house
[click image below for link to UOW video page]
The design of the Illawarra Flame makes the most of Australia’s natural environment by emphasising water efficiency, solar energy harvesting, passive design and advanced ventilation systems.
Mr Niccol says the team used a range of technologies to modernise the cottage.
“The first thing that we’ve looked at is actually removing the asbestos cladding and re-insulating the home,” Mr Niccol said. “We’ve replaced the single glazing with double glazed unit. So really, that just drives down the initial use for heating and cooling of the home, and makes it far more efficient. We’ve then retrofitted two types of solar panels to the roof. We’ve then got a really, really innovative heating and ventilation system. It’s called the photovoltaic thermal system, so we actually remove hot air from our solar panels, which we can then use to heat and cool the home.”
For the past decade the Decathlon has showcased an amazing array of innovative sustainable technologies, it’s developed into the pre-eminent student-led design competition in the world. The Decathlon seeks to foster creative thinking and applied training and highlights to the public the benefits of sustainable design.
Mr Niccol believes the team’s competition entry could form the basis of a commercially viable design for a home.
“We think it’s definitely practical to retrofit homes in Australia similar to what we’ve designed for the competition,” he said. “There are a lot of contest-specific requirements that we’ve got on the house in order to win the competition, so to come back to Australia we’d have to make some modifications to the home to make it actually viable. But the bare bones of it is definitely manageable within Australia. In terms of the rest of the world…there are a lot of Chinese people that have actually asked whether we can just build them in Australia, so rather than actually retrofitting, just building the timber frame from scratch, essentially, and building this home.”
“So there’s a market and a desire out there.”
Mr Niccol says the competition home would cost approximately $300,000 to build in Australia. The prize-winning pad is set to be pulled apart before being shipped back to the University of Wollongong to be used for education and research. By transforming an unsustainable fibro house into a sustainable, attractive and efficient home, Team UOW is shaping Australia’s housing future!
This is the first time the competition has been held in Asia, it follows on from the super successful US and European Solar Decathlons, held biennially since 2002.
Follow their progress or get involved!