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Team Florida Takes “Sunshine State” Moniker Seriously

July 7, 2011 - 5:47pm

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Team Florida's design model of the FLeX House | Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon's Flickr photostream

Team Florida's design model of the FLeX House | Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon's Flickr photostream

In honor of the U.S  Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon -- which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive -- we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

It only seems natural that the Sunshine State would combine the power of colleges from across the state to bring its solar powered, energy efficient home to the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon on the National Mall this fall.

Unlike most teams in the competition -- which are comprised of participants from one or less often two or three schools -- Team Florida is made up of researchers from four Sunshine State universities: the University of South Florida, the University of FloridaFlorida State University and the University of Central Florida. The team was conceived in the belief that the building industry cannot function effectively without close collaboration between groups of professionals representing different fields of expertise.  With this in mind, Team Florida says they are utilizing the brainpower of eight different departments of the respective schools -- and all of this collaborative expertise is giving Team Florida a unique perspective on their design. 

Each of the 20 teams’ entries into the competition often address unique challenges related to regional climate or places that might not receive much sun. Team Florida’s FLeX House, on the other hand, was designed specifically for hot, humid climates and sunny places like those comparable to central Florida. But that doesn’t make its job any easier.

Building a home adapted to Florida's hot, humid climate is a challenge. Team Florida's goal is to utilize design approaches that demonstrate the best balance of efficiency, sustainability and economics. The FLeX House is meant to illustrate Team Florida’s philosophy that “sustainable design practices are inherently good design practices.”

As for the architectural arrangement of the house, the team says they designed it to be as flexible as possible (hence the name FleX House, which stands for Florida zero energy prototype). This flexibility allows the home to take on different configurations by using movable components that either expand or contract the living spaces -- which is supported by the continuity of the flooring, ceiling, and interior wall materials. 

In addition to their cross-university teamwork, members of Team Florida are also working with industry partners to design an affordable building envelope that meets strict net-zero energy use building criteria. The team says that the home’s “envelope” (or the exterior part of the home consisting of windows, walls, roofs and foundations) was designed to work equally well throughout the year by “combining an optimum level of insulation for temperature extremes, resistance to air infiltration, transparency for daylight, and flexibility” --a common challenge to homebuilders in central Florida.

After the competition, the FLeX House will become the  Zero Energy House Learning Center (ZEHLC) to raise awareness, demonstrate building science principles, highlight sustainable construction strategies, utilize Florida Friendly landscaping and illustrate Florida WaterStar practices associated with “climatically responsive” zero energy homes.

To follow the team’s progress on FLeX House, visit their blog, official Facebook page or follow them on Twitter at @FLeX_House. See the Solar Decathlon website for more information about the competition and other teams involved in the contest.

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