Solar house competition heats up



FleX House, the design entry that won Team Florida a spot in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition for the world’s best solar-powered house, is getting closer to realization.

The team has ironed out many fine points in the plans, a major construction company is on board, and efforts are also underway to gather the necessary resources to get the house built.

The road to completion involves a lot of individuals working in different areas at different times. Occasionally, the whole team needs to get together to brainstorm. Early this winter, team members – six faculty members and 30 students – gathered around computers, drawings and renderings over a weekend at the USF School of Architecture + Community Design for what is known as a charette – an intensive design session. Small groups worked out the design details and then came together to put the finishing touches on the plans that will hopefully impress the judges with its clean modern lines and proposed state-of-the-art mechanisms when the final competition takes place next fall in Washington D.C.

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 Florida State University College of Engineering, the University of Florida School of Building Construction and Interior Design, and the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center.

Team members started their weekend with a tour of a local home manufacturer. The rest of the weekend was spent reviewing, refining and adapting the overall design – interior and exterior – and mechanical systems to meet the competition specifications.

“We’re aiming to make the house affordable in addition to making it zero-energy,” said Russell.

New to the partnership is the Beck Group, a full-service builder. The company, established in 1912, is involved in development, architecture, estimating and construction with a strong emphasis on sustainable practices. While students are allowed, and encouraged, to help as much as they like, Beck is taking the lead in the actual construction of FLeX House.

“We’re very fortunate to be working with a company that has LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification,” said Russell. “In fact, more than a third of their employees are LEED Accredited or are Green Advantage professionals. We expect to learn a lot from them and that their involvement will give us a strong edge in this competition. In addition to all the creativity and craftsmanship involved, we also need the funds to make this house a reality.”

The fundraising effort is underway. A variety of sponsor packages are available with levels as low as $20 to $99, as high as $100,000 – for naming rights – and everything in between. For more information, visit

“In-kind donations are welcome, as well,” Russell said. That can be items such as building supplies as well as mechanical equipment, landscaping materials, printing supplies and team uniforms and tee shirts.