JUNE 2015

The Illawarra Flame House is now located in its permanent position at the University of Wollongong Innovation Campus. It is located opposite the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre and is part of our longer term Sustainability Street project.


The University of Wollongong teamed up with TAFE Illawarra under the auspices of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre to form ‘Team UOW’ in the Solar Decathlon China 2013. They were the first team from Australia to gain entry into a Solar Decathlon, and took a unique approach to the competition by being the first team in the history of the competition to demonstrate how to retrofit an existing home. The Solar Decathlon China 2013 was held in Datong, a former ancient capital, 300km west of Beijing, and is the first Solar Decathlon ever to be held in Asia.

Based on a typical Aussie fibro home, 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.

In August 2013 Team UOW was awarded first place overall in the SD China 2013 competition, ahead of 19 other teams from around the globe. They scored 957.6 of a possible 1000 points, achieving the highest ever overall score in any Solar Decathlon competition!


The Solar Decathlon is made up of 10 sub-competitions ranging from the achievement of a net-zero energy balance to effective communications and home entertainment. Half of the contests are measured, such as fridge and house temperature, with the remaining contests being judged by panels of experts.

In addition to being named the grand champions, the team also scored first or second in eight of the ten juried and measured contests, taking home the following awards:

Juried Contests

  • First place in ‘Engineering’
  • First place in ‘Architecture’
  • First place in ‘Solar Application’
  • Second place in ‘Communications’
  • Second place in ‘Market Appeal’

Measured contests

  • First place in ‘Energy Balance’
  • First place in ‘Hot Water’
  • Second place in ‘Appliances’

The second place prize went to Team SCUT (South China University of Technology) with their EConcave house on 951.8 points, with third being awarded to Team Sweden (Chalmers University of Technology) with their Halo house on 948.3 points.

In a demonstration of effective collaboration, students and teachers from both the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra have pooled their knowledge, skills, research and experience to create their net-zero and innovative home.

University of Wollongong Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Judy Raper was present at the Closing Ceremony of the Solar Decathlon China competition.

“Our students have achieved a remarkable feat here today. The tremendous effort that they have all put in over the past year or more has been recognised as world-class, and has demonstrated once again that the University of Wollongong is a world-leader in research and education in advanced environmentally sustainable technologies and in reducing the environmental impacts of our built environment”, said Professor Raper.

Exceeding all expectations, during the 8 days of public exhibition at the Solar Decathlon China, Team UOW toured over 35,000 Chinese locals through their home. It is estimated that over 200,000 people visited the Solar Decathlon China, making it the biggest in Solar Decathlon history.

The net-zero energy Illawarra Flame home, designed and built by students from the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra, was constructed from the ground up at the competition site in Datong, with all materials having been shipped over from Australia. Nineteen other innovative solar powered houses designed by the world’s young sustainability experts of the future have been built alongside at the same time.

Giving it the winning edge that led to its first place finish, Team UOW Australia’s entry was the first house in Solar Decathlon history to demonstrate a retrofit of an existing home. Modelled on a 1960s Aussie fibro house floor plan, the Illawarra Flame House shows how to make existing houses energy efficient and comfortable to live in.

Team UOW transformed the contents of their seven shipping containers into a beautiful, modern and technologically advanced, net-zero energy home in just 12 days. This was the culmination of two years of planning and design, three months of initial construction and a six-week journey across the Pacific Ocean.

“I am so proud of the tremendous effort that our students have put in over the past two years. From the initial planning, through detailed design, and then finally the construction of our house in both Wollongong and China, I cannot describe how much it means for the team to be awarded first place in the Solar Decathlon China 2013,” said Professor Paul Cooper, Director of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) and the Team UOW Faculty Advisor.

“This result confirms the fact that both the University of Wollongong and our partner, TAFE Illawarra, are leading Australian education and training organisations which compete with the very best in the world – in terms of engineering excellence and across a wide range of disciplines, Business to Arts”.

The newly established Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) at UOW’s Innovation Campus will become home to the Illawarra Flame House after it is shipped back from China. There it will be opened regularly to the public, and become a part of the SBRC Living Laboratory program.

Importantly, it will provide not only a test bed for new sustainable building technologies, but a vehicle to accelerate the adoption of sustainable retrofit technologies for homes in Australia and overseas.

The Illawarra Flame is expected to be rebuilt in late 2013 or early 2014. Sign up to the mailing list to be alerted when it’s open for inspection!

Watch. Team UOW’s SD China Journey


Watch. SD China Closing Ceremony Presentation