UOW students have won two prestigious national awards for their innovative and sustainable designs that led them to take out the ‘energy Olympics’, the 2013 Solar Decathlon in China this August.

The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) presented the Team UOW Solar Decathlon China team, in collaboration with BlueScope Steel, with the Denis Joseph Award for Innovative Use of Solar Energy in Heating Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC&R) at an awards ceremony in Brisbane last night.

A collaboration between Team UOW and BlueScope, this unique system was design to enhance the electrical efficiency of their Photovoltaic system while also harvesting the thermal energy of the sun.

This innovative system, which was designed to be a cost effective retrofit solution for existing residential buildings, was a key feature of the Illawarra Flame house, a net-zero energy home developed by Team UOW that took out the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition.

Director of UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC), and Faculty Advisor to Team UOW, Professor Paul Cooper said the award provides excellent recognition for all the innovation and hard work put in by the students and staff of Team UOW and BlueScope in developing our prototype solar assisted air conditioning system.

“Our system developed for the house that won the Solar Decathlon competition in China this year is the first prototype of what we hope will be a world beating, environmentally friendly and economically attractive technology that will be a source of both thermal and electrical power for our existing buildings”, he said.

UOW Master of Engineering (Research) student Mr Michael Whitehouse was also named as the ‘AIRAH Student of the Year’ at the national awards night in recognition of his outstanding work and scholarship in the Heating, Ventilation, Airconditioning and Refrigeration industry.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) honours degree from UOW in 2007, Mr Whitehouse is now study a Master of Engineering, focusing on innovative building display systems at UOW’s SBRC.

Michael played a pivotal role as the Building Services Manager of the Team UOW Solar Decathlon team, developing much of the design and documentation of the first-place winning Illawarra Flame House.

“The recognition as AIRAH Student of the Year means a lot to me, my University and our Solar Decathlon team,” Mr Whitehouse said.

“I have worked very hard and consistently, both on the Illawarra Flame House as the Services Manager for the team, as well as on my continuing studies. To receive an award for this effort is fantastic and humbling. The award will help my career, opening up networking opportunities within the AIRAH membership base, which I hope will lead to future employment opportunities.”