Solar Decathlon 2011: Team Florida, FleX House

[Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing coverage of Solar Decathlon entries leading up to the event’s kick off on Sept. 23.]

Team Florida is made up of students from The University of South Florida, Florida State University, The University of Central Florida, and The University of Florida, and all have come together for the 2011 Solar Decathlon to create the FleX House, a prefabricated home that is specifically designed to exist in the Florida climate. It’s modularity is key in its design, as it was created for a young, growing family, and can be expanded as needed. It’s ability to open and close supports the concept of the Florida lifestyle, which is lived as much outside as it is inside.

FleX House also lives up to its name by being adaptable to the tropical Florida climate. During periods of mild, pleasant weather, the house can open up to let in fresh air and be cooled passively. During hotter, more uncomfortable times of the year, the house can close up and the highly efficient mechanical cooling systems take over. The exterior of the house is corrugated metal, which reflects sunlight and heat besides being cheap and durable, and the surrounding landscape is engineered to provide fresh food, cut down on excess heat from the sun, and prevent storm water runoff. The entire FleX House can be packed up and transported on a single truck, which makes the house affordable and easy as well as sustainable.

Image via Team Florida

FleX House uses passive technology as much as possible, and aims to take advantage of the milder periods in Florida’s climate. Along with a heat pump and solar array, a zoned mini-split system works to heat and cool the house, while the duct system dehumidifies incoming air. The solar array features 22 panels with a one micro-inverter per pair of panels. The house comes with software that monitors 35 aspects of data on the house’s performance.

FleX House will continue its life after the Decathlon on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, where it will be used as a laboratory by students and faculty studying sustainable materials and building practices. Team Florida hopes that the lessons learned in FleX House, before, during, and after the competition can one day be integrated into Florida’s residential development programs.

Laura Caseley is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and a resident of New York State’s Hudson Valley. She writes for several publications and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found painting in her makeshift studio or enjoying the scenery of her hometown.

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