A University of Wollongong-led project to transform an iconic 1960s fibro house into a solar-powered, net-zero energy home has won more accolades, this time for its contribution to engineering and the community, as joint winner of the President’s Award at this year’s Sydney Engineering Excellence Awards.
The “Illawarra Flame” house was designed and built by students and staff from the university and Illawarra TAFE – known as Team UOW – for entry in the Solar Decathlon China 2013, which it won comprehensively, ahead of 19 other entries from around the world.
The aim was to upgrade an existing building – in this case, Australia’s iconic fibro shack – into one that generates more energy than it consumes – and to inspire Australia’s homeowners and building industry to accelerate the development and adoption of advanced building energy technology in new and existing homes.
The technologies developed by the students included solar electricity and thermal energy harvesting systems, a thermal mass wall that helps regulate temperature and is made from crushed recycled terracotta roof tiles, and an advanced domestic building management system that also monitors energy production and consumption.
The finished house (pictured at right) highlights passive design concepts such as east-oriented for warm light in the winter and a raised roof for cooling ventilation in the summer. It also uses up-cycled charity shop furniture, double glazed windows and native drought resistant plants, to add to the environmentally friendly nature of the project.
Professor Paul Cooper, who is director of the University’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) and faculty advisor on the Illawarra Flame project, said it was an example of how anyone renovating or building a home can embrace sustainable materials and technology while maintaining comfort and affordability.
“At the top level, this project showed that research-led innovations such as a photo-voltaic thermal system provides not only solar electricity but captures the thermal energy from under the panels and diverts that into heating and cooling,” Professor Cooper said.
The multiple award-winning Illawarra Flame house will be on show as part of the SBRC Open Day this weekend, on Saturday 25 October.