A team of UOW and TAFE Illawarra staff and students based at the SMART Infrastructure Facility will convert an old fibro house into a sustainable and attractive home as part of a prestigious international event next year.

The Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition is co-hosted by the United States Department of Energy and the National Energy Administration of China. The competition challenges university teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses. The designs are assessed on cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, aesthetics and a range of other categories.

Team UOW’s home, named the ‘Illawarra Flame’ after the region’s famous flame tree, is the first Australian team to win a place in the finals of a Solar Decathlon competition, now in its tenth year.

The team has chosen the Illawarra Flame, with the seasonal transformation of the tree symbolising the retrofit concept of the house. They will transform an unsustainable fibro house into a sustainable, attractive and efficient home. The house will then be shipped to Datong, China, and rebuilt to compete alongside other entries in a two-week display period in August 2013.

Jack Breen, the team’s Marketing and Communications Manager, said the team decided to retrofit a fibro house primarily because it had never been done before in the Solar Decathlon and because there is a huge demand for it in the Australian market.

“Australia’s residential areas are characterised by outdated fibro homes, which are notoriously energy inefficient,” he said. “Since only 2% of Australia’s housing stock is replaced with new homes each year, it makes sense to ‘future fit’ our existing homes.” The sustainability ethic fits well with SMART’s environmentally-friendly four star building.

There are around 35 members of the team so far from six UOW Faculties, plus students from TAFE Illawarra. The administrative core of the team is located in the SMART Infrastructure Facility. Mr Breen said students from the team also use some of the labs at SMART for testing. There are also regular full team meetings at SMART in the lead up to the event.

“The project began with an entry into the competition about a year and a half ago. Since then, the team has grown significantly,” Mr Breen said.

“We have now nearly completed the design of the house, and are gearing up to begin construction at the Wollongong TAFE campus in January.”

The SMART Infrastructure Facility’s custom-built visualisation wall is currently displaying Team UOW’s walkthrough video of the Illawarra Flame house.

In China, team will compete against 24 teams from 14 different countries around the world. The 2013 Solar Decathlon is the biggest student-run competition the University of Wollongong has entered. Team UOW visited China in October as part of their preparations for the competition.

For more information on the Solar Decathlon and Team UOW, visit www.illawarraflame.com.au.