Australian Retrofitted Design Wins 2013 Solar Decathlon China

We’re still eagerly awaiting the outcome of the 2013 Solar Decathlon here in the United States, but in the meantime, there’s an overseas victor to celebrate! Team UOW from the University of Wollongong in Australia were crowed the winners of this year’s Solar Decathlon China ahead of 19 other entries from around the globe.

Team UOW’s Illawarra Flame House was the first retrofitted structure ever to be entered into the competition. Earning an amazing 957.6 out of a possible 1,000 points, the team proved that you don’t have to start from scratch just to end up with a net-zero building.

UOW Solar Decathlon China House

Image via Team UOW

The Illawarra Flame project took its name from the Illawarra Flame Tree an icon of transformation in its native Australia. With their design, the UOW students hoped to show how much potential for energy conservation exists in older homes.

“The Illawarra Flame demonstrates how a ‘fibro’ house, a common and extremely energy-inefficient Australian icon, can be modified and retrofitted to be an ultra-sustainable home for the future,” write the student designers.

In addition to some structural remodeling, the retrofitted house now boasts a 9.4 kW photovoltaic solar array, natural ventilation and tight insulation provided by DOW Thermax and Knauff EarthWool. Also featured are greywater treatment and rainwater capture systems, energy consumption monitoring systems, vertical green walls to promote food production, a composting area, and LED lighting.

The Illawarra Flame house will now be shipped to its new permanent home, at the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus, where it will be open to the public.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog