Student energy ignites Illawarra Flame launch

“It would be pretty cool to be a student again,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings mused as he looked upon the foundations of what, in a few months, will be shaped into Australia’s first entry in the world’s largest sustainable building design competition.

Professor Wellings spoke at the construction launch of The Illawarra Flame, the world-class sustainable home to be designed and built by a group of talented UOW and TAFE Illawarra students known as Team UOW Australia.

Team UOW is the first Australian team to take part in the finals of a Solar Decathlon competition and will compete against 22 international teams from 13 countries over 10 days when the Solar Decathlon event begins in Datong, China in August.

The team’s entry, The Illawarra Flame, is unique as it will illustrate how an Aussie ‘fibro’ house can be retrofitted into a sustainable, environmentally friendly home.

Construction of the Illawarra Flame was officially launched this week at TAFE Illawarra’s Wollongong Campus at an event attended by Team UOW and distinguished guests including UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings, Executive Dean of Engineering and Informational Sciences Professor Chris Cook and Institute Director of TAFE Illawarra Dianne Murray.

Professor Wellings said it was a joy to see students with such diverse skill sets come together to produce something tangible.

“This project demonstrates the globally competitive skills we have at UOW. It has me thinking that it would be pretty cool to be a student again and to be a part of something so cutting-edge and exciting,” Professor Wellings said.

“I look forward visiting the team in China and enjoying a solar-powered Pavlova at the dinner party that they will hold in the house as part of the competition.”

Director, Sustainable Buildings Research Cebtre and Team UOW Academic Coordinator Professor Paul Cooper from the Faculty of Engineering proudly wore the Team UOW logo, which features the houses’ namesake the Illawarra Flame tree.

Professor Cooper described the project as ‘exciting’, saying he looked forward to seeing the students compete “against the best universities in the world in the most exciting place in the world.”

“Everyone who is a part of this team has done such a phenomenal job so far. This is only the start of an unforgettable journey,” he said.

Team UOW Project Manager Lloyd Niccol said the students were prepared for “a lot of stress but a lot of fun,” over the coming months.

He explained that the TAFE construction phase is an important step in the Solar Decathlon competition timeline and that it is the first of four builds for the Illawarra Flame house.

The second construction, a practice assembly, will take place on the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus before the Illawarra Flame house is dismantled and shipped to Datong, China for the Solar Decathlon competition. In Datong it will be rebuilt within 10 days for the competition. Upon its return to Australia the Illawarra Flame will be re-assembled for the final time at UOW’s Innovation Campus.

“The competition is highly relevant to today’s cost-conscious consumers since the net-zero energy Illawarra Flame home will export electricity to the grid,” Mr Niccol said.

“The project provides a potential example of how the Australian housing sector can address issues of environmental degradation and growing electricity costs - using innovative technologies.”

“Since only one to two per cent of Australia’s housing stock is added to each year, improving the performance of our existing buildings provides the greatest potential immediate environmental impact,” Mr Niccol said.

“If you haven’t already booked your trip to China in August I suggest you do so. The Solar Decathlon is going to be an event none of us will ever forget.”

For more information on Team UOW and the Solar Decathlon China:

By: Jenna Bradwell.


  • Team UOW with Professor Paul Cooper, Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings at the construction launch.

  • Team UOW Academic Coordinator Professor Paul Cooper said he looked forward to seeing the team compete against the best universities in the world in the most exciting place in the world.

  • Team UOW Project Manager Lloyd Niccol urged supporters to join Team UOW in China for the Solar Decathlon.

  • Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings had the honour of planting the house’s namesake, an Illawarra Flame Tree, at the construction launch.