Joel Armstrong

UOW and TAFE tackle solar housing in China

A team of students from UOW and TAFE Illawarra will go head to head with some of the best universities in the world when they compete in the finals of the Solar Decathlon: China in 2013.

The group, known as Team UOW, will be amongst 24 teams from 13 countries fighting it out to build and operate an advanced and appealing solar-powered house to win the competition.

The team, comprised of students from at least six UOW faculties and the University’s Sydney Business School will be joined by TAFE Illawarra staff and students who will play a major role in the design and construction of ‘The Illawarra Flame’ house.

Team UOW is the first group from an Australian University to win a place in the Solar Decathlon finals. In fact, the team won entry to both the US and the China finals, electing to compete in China.

Director of UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) and Team Co-ordinator Professor Paul Cooper said the Team UOW entry will be built in Wollongong and shipped to Datong, China to compete alongside other houses during a two week display period in August 2013.

“The competition is a Decathlon as students will compete in and be judged on ten events covering all aspects of housing design,” he explained.

“Our house will be judged not only on its architecture and engineering but also its market appeal and affordability, comfort, energy usage and liveability,” he said.

“The house will have to produce as much energy as it uses and the students will face practical tests such as preparing and hosting a dinner party using only the energy they have collected during the day and drying clothes using as little energy as possible.”

Professor Cooper said a well-engineered entry was important but not enough to win the competition. He said the house would have to be technically excellent, cost effective and usable.

To maintain a distinctly Australian flavour, the team has chosen to renovate, remodel and retrofit an existing fibro home rather than building a new one.

Professor Cooper said this would give students an opportunity to showcase their retrofitting skills while minimising the environmental costs associated with building a new home.

“Our team wants to show just how energy efficient you can make any home if you think innovatively,” Professor Cooper said.

“We have already had support promised from agencies such as government departments, the Australian Building Products Innovation Council (BPIC), and from companies such as BlueScope Steel. But this project provides a unique opportunity for many other Australian companies who are designing and producing new and innovative green building products to have them on display and tested against products from around the world in a unique competition in a rapidly growing market”, Professor Cooper said.

For more information on the Solar Decathlon China competition visit and for the UOW Sustainable Buildings Research Centre

By: Jenna Bradwell


  • A team of students from UOW and TAFE Illawarra will go head to head with some of the best universities in the world.

  • Some of the students and staff from Team UOW with their concept design drawings for the Solar Decathlon: China competition to be held in August 2013 (pictured in front of the type of 'fibro' home they plan to retrofit and remodel).