Solar-Powered House Begins to Rise

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the FleX House kick start the construction cycle this summer.


Contruction site for FLeX House. The boxes will be used to level the house. Photo credit: Rebecca Hagen


By Rebecca Hagen

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (May 17, 2011) – An informal groundbreaking marked the start of construction on FLeX House, Team Florida’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011.


Last week, on May 11, team members from the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design, College of Business and School of Mass Communications joined industry partners from Beck Group for a traditional “first shovel” on the construction site north of downtown Tampa.


The groundbreaking launches the last leg of a project nearly two years in the making. Team Florida submitted a successful bid to participate in Solar Decathlon — a biennial competition that challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive — in late 2009.


Student architects, engineers, interior designers and construction specialists have been working steadily to refine all aspects of the house, a net-zero energy prototype designed for Florida’s humid climate, and gear up for the competition since spring 2010.


“We are excited to begin the construction of FLeX House,” said Stanley Russell, the team's architecture faculty advisor and a professor at the USF School of Architecture and Community Design in the College of The Arts. “It will be rewarding to watch the design and planning work of our four universities take shape. We hope that FLeX House will lead the way to the growth and development of zero energy construction in the near future.”


Team Florida includes 40 students and 12 faculty representing eight departments from four universities: the University of South Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Central Florida. Students from all four universities will assist with aspects of the construction process this summer. The team anticipates construction completion in August, followed by a month of systems testing and monitoring. In September, FLeX House will be disassembled, placed on the back of a truck and shipped to Washington, D.C. for three weeks of competition and public tours.


After the competition, FLeX House will be installed on the University of South Florida campus where it will serve as a community learning center and laboratory to test emerging zero energy house technologies and sustainable building materials.


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