SolarWorld solar blog

Team Florida Part 2: The four-month countdown to final competition begins!

Posted 19 May 2011 12:00 AM by Katie Nelson, Communications for Team Florida

FLeX House by Team Florida getting ready for the Solar Decathlon in just 4 monthsThe last few months were a whirlwind for Team Florida! Two years of preparing for the Solar Decathlon comes down to just four months to construct FLeX House and travel to Washington D.C., where we will be competing against teams from across the globe. Our focus has been on refining the FLeX House design while maintaining the original vision, as well as completing competition documents.

Solar Decathlon has the uncanny ability to schedule deliverables during the busiest weeks of the semester. The team recently submitted a round of edits to our 600+ page project manual—the construction bible that specifies every product and parameter that goes into FLeX House. We also submitted a project summary, team photo and copies of our team logos. With the team scattered across the state, taking a team photo was challenging. Our solution was to take four separate photos and turn them into a montage--thus reinforcing our theme of four separate schools cooperating as one unit.

In addition to completing massive paperwork, members worked on creating public awareness about the project and sustainability--it’s the reason the Solar Decathlon exists! So, we constantly search for ways to do just that. In April, team members from the University of South Florida went to Earth Day Tampa Bay 2011 where over 72 different groups educated the public about safe environmental practices. We met with a variety of people, many who were unfamiliar with Solar Decathlon and others who had actually attended the competition in the past. It was great to answer questions and get feedback from people who were looking at our project with fresh eyes and insight.Team Florida at Earth Day Tampa Bay

April was a great month for FLeX House, as the design received an award of merit from the Hillsborough County Planning Commission at its 29th Annual Community Design Awards. Awards are given out in several different categories each year, recognizing the best of the county's planning and community design projects. Categories include urban infill, historic preservation, environmental and green development.

One of the final steps for the communications team members was to travel to Gainesville, FL and meet with the interior design students from the University of Florida. The focus was to break the stereotype of a net-zero home having what lead student and licensed Interior Designer Pamela Cotera describes as a “cold, industrial feel.”  To do this, the design uses deep orange and reds, charcoal and steel gray, and warm wood tones in the living area, carrying them throughout the home. The interior designers also shared stories from their recent road trip to Georgia to visit IKEA, a FLeX House donor, where the team selected furniture pieces to feature in FLeX House.

For the architecture students, Team Florida's members from the USF College of Architecture and Community Design spent the Spring semester working out details of FLeX House's design. At the end of April, students presented their solutions for the pivoting front entrance door, sliding doors that separate the bedroom/study area from the living area, exterior louvers and the track system that allows the entry and the bedroom modules to slide out from the main body of the house. Presentations were illustrated with full-scale mock-ups, renderings and computer animations.

Contruction site for FLeX House - Team FloridaIt’ll be exciting to see these designs in action, full scale. An informal groundbreaking marked the start of construction on Wednesday May 11. If all goes according to plan, the house will be completed in August, with a month before competition to monitor all systems for efficiency. We've set up a digital camera at Beck Construction to capture time-lapse photography of the whole process. Our next step is to focus on constructing the house, testing the systems and planning the trip to D.C.!   


Team Florida's FLeX House will be powered by 22 SolarWorld Sunmodule™ solar panels and 11 Enphase microinverters.

Stay tuned to this SolarWorld blog for updates on our adventures over the next several months. In the meantime, you can see more photos and video of FLeX House by visiting our website.

Read the news release.