Team Florida Chosen for Solar Decathlon

By Barbara Melendez


TAMPA, Fla. (April 26, 2010) – The University of South Florida is part of a team selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon which will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2011. Teammates include Florida State University, the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida under the banner “Team Florida.”


Team Florida is an interdisciplinary group of students and faculty lead by USF College of The Arts School of Architecture + Community Design professor Stanley Russell, and includes the USF Colleges of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and Business, the FSU College of Engineering, the UF School of Building Construction and Interior Design, and the UCF Florida Solar Energy Center.


The competition pits selected teams of college and university students from throughout the United States and the world against each other to design, build and operate the best solar-powered house. The house must be energy-efficient, effective, affordable and attractive. There are 20 teams from five countries on four continents representing a diverse range of climates, regions, building technologies and design approaches.


There will be a two-week period where the teams actually construct the houses they have developed and take part in ten contests.

According to the rules, each contest is worth 100 points and can be scored either by jury or by specific measurements. Examples include completing household tasks such as cooking, washing dishes, and doing laundry and then meeting criteria such as maintaining a narrow indoor temperature range.

The 10 contests are: Architecture (juried), Market Appeal (juried), Engineering (juried), Communications (juried), Affordability (juried), Comfort Zone, (measured), Hot Water (measured), Appliances (measured), Home Entertainment (measured and juried), and Energy Balance (measured).

Team Florida dreamed up Flex House, a flexible, modular building system. It was designed with a young, moderate-income couple in mind, living in a sunny, hot and humid climate.


“The Department of Energy selected the teams that used a combination of energy-efficient construction and appliances,” said Stanley Russell who is supervising the USF contingent. “Team Florida’s house will be uniquely adapted to the central Florida climate and include time-tested passive solar strategies as well as cutting edge renewable energy systems, building components, appliances and mechanical systems.”


Flex House aims to provide natural ventilation during mild weather by using sliding glass panels that open to a central courtyard and can be closed off during hot weather. A solar chimney in the high ceiling with operable vents lets out the rising heat and moveable partitions allow for HVAC zoning and energy conservation.


“One of the unique features is a structure that acts like a parasol,” said Russell. “It creates shade for the roof, walls and courtyard and it also feeds rainwater to a cistern for irrigation and to a water feature that adds to the beauty of the site. There’s also a desiccant waterfall inside the house to control humidity by absorbing moisture from the air.”


The solar features include a photovoltaic array and a solar-thermal system. They provide enough energy to achieve net-zero energy performance and hot water to reduce energy consumption by the heat pump.


“We have about 17 months to design, document and construct the house. We’re competing against teams from as far away as Calgary, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, China, Hawaii and California and with teams from New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Illinois, and even Florida International University, to give you an idea of how many concepts will be involved,” Russell said. “What we ultimately exhibit in Washington next year can conceivably provide the world with options that could have the power to influence future home design in Florida and around the world.”


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.