USF Students Wishing for a Little Sunshine for Solar House

FleX House interior (Courtesy Jim Tetro/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)
FleX House interior (Courtesy Jim Tetro/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)
Washington, DC (2011-09-29) -

Some USF students taking part in an international competition in Washington, DC, are wishing they could have packed some Florida sunshine.

Over forty USF students from the Colleges of Architecutre, Engineering, Business and Mass Communications are in the nation’s capital, along with fellow students from Florida State, UCF and the University of Florida.

Their group, Team Florida, is taking part in the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon, which pits them against 18 teams from around the U-S and four other countries in designing, building and displaying a solar-powered home.

Team Florida has been working on their entry, "FlexHouse," for almost a year and a half, with the actual construction taking place over the last four months at a site near the Hillsborough River in Tampa. The entire house had to be shipped via truck to Washington and then set up in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park.

While the FlexHouse website says the solar-powered, 900 square foot home is “tailor made for Florida’s hot, humid climate and is sized for a young, moderate income couple,” they’re finding Washtington, DC, in September is not like Florida in the summer.

“Right now, DC is very overcast and we simply don’t have a lot of sun to work with,” according to USF Architecture Graduate student Daniel Alderman. “Things have been pretty low-powered and difficult to get some of the maximum efficiencies of the home."

"We've had trouble mainly with our hot water, it's relied pretty heavily on heating from the sunlight. While that always works very well in Florida, it's been pretty difficult here in D-C."

The homes are judged in ten categories, with Team Florida’s best scores coming in
both Architecture and Affordability, where they finished in 12th place among the 19 homes. However, they also finished last in two categories: Applilances (homes are fully furnished) and Hot Water. As a result, just over halfway through the competition, Team Florida sits in last place.

However, Alderman says some public visitors are coming away impressed with how spacious the 900 square foot FlexHouse is.

"A lot of people have walked through our front door and honestly had a very ‘wowed’ look on their face by how big the interior space of the home is. A lot of the homes have had a very tight configuration based on the thousand square foot limit that we worked with, but we were able to achieve a much more open space in our home and we made this space feel a lot bigger."

Judging wraps up this Sunday. After that, FlexHouse will be shipped back to USF's Tampa campus, where it will become the Zero Energy House Learning Center.

You can find out more information about FlexHouse by clicking here and you can learn more about the Solar Decathlon by clicking here.

And to hear Daniel Alderman explain the misconceptions some visitors to the FlexHouse have, click on the "listen now" link at the top of this page.

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