UOW has taken out top honours at the 2013 International Green Gown Awards for its student-run sustainable home project, the Illawarra Flame, which saw the conversion of the iconic Australian 1960s fibro into a solar-powered, net-zero energy home of the future.

The Illawarra Flame house, which took out the 2013 Solar Decathlon in China earlier this year with the highest score in the competition’s 10-year history, won the Green Gown Award for International Student Initiatives at a ceremony in the UK recently.

Now in their 9th year, the Green Gown Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the UK and internationally. With sustainability moving up the agenda, the Awards have become established as the most prestigious recognition of best practice within the tertiary education sector.

Professor Paul Cooper, Director of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre at UOW and advisor on the Illawarra Flame project, said UOW and the broader local community were extremely proud of the students’ efforts in winning the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition and “to continue to receive formal recognition of their achievements is a fantastic way to show the international community that the University of Wollongong truly is a world class university.”

“This international award demonstrates that University of Wollongong students are not only world leaders in specific disciplines such as engineering, business and creative arts, but they are also leading the way in the broader field of sustainability, encompassing both research and action,” Professor Cooper said.

President of Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability, Ms Leanne Denby, said as a sector, higher education is making fantastic moves towards sustainability.

“Tertiary education plays a critical role in delivering sustainability, and the Awards allow us to show the world we are on board and accepting the responsibility we have to educate current and future staff and students in sustainable practice.”

UOW was also Highly Commended in the Australasia awards for its project, ‘Moving the Masses – a commuter revolution’, which has sought to shift transport modes from the single driver car to more sustainable and active modes of transport to help reduce carbon emissions.

“This commendation came as a great surprise,” UOW Transport Project Officer, Ms Jacqui Besgrove, said.

“Our team has been working hard to reduce carbon emissions from transport through initiatives such as the shuttle bus and free carpooling services and it is wonderful to be recognised for this work.”

UOW’s Environmental and Sustainability Initiatives Unit, which was involved in the Green Gown Awards submission, is also currently spearheading many sustainability focused projects on campus, such as energy and emissions reduction and improved waste management.

Originally published on UOW newsroom