The humble Aussie fibro home will be transformed into a futuristic eco-house as part of a new Illawarra research project.
University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra students have teamed up to take part in this year's Solar Decathlon, a global research and building competition driven by the Chinese and United States governments.
The 30-strong team is one of 23 from around the world to make it into the finals. They are the first Australian group to compete in such an event, which have been held in the United States, Europe and China since 2002.
Yesterday the team launched their project at Wollongong TAFE by starting the first of four building stages for the home, which will be dismantled and shipped to China for the competition in July.
Project manager and final-year UOW student Lloyd Niccol, 24, said the decathlon was linked to the university's research push towards retrofitting buildings.
"Currently only 1 to 2 per cent of our building stock is replaced each year, and essentially that means that by 2050 over 60 per cent of our current houses will still exist," he said.
"So to make a real environmental impact we need to fix those houses."
He said improving the region's many pre-war fibro homes would lead to energy and cost savings for residents.
"They have a lot of thermal comfort issues, asbestos and a whole host of other issues," Mr Niccol said.
"They are super hot in summer, cold in winter, they are tight and compact and ventilation is not very good."
Called the Illawarra Flame house, the redesigned structures will include a new insulation system and asbestos-free cladding, prefabricated electrical and water pods and a new type of solar-panel system that the team is developing.
UOW Sustainable Buildings Research Centre director Professor Paul Cooper commended the students for their work, saying it would reduce electricity bills, make homes more comfortable in hot summers and allow people to adapt to the changing climate.
See a walk-through of the retrofitted Illawarra Flame house at illawarraflame.com.au/house.