Illawarra flame tree inspires sustainability

The Illawarra Flame-144 team.

The Illawarra Flame  team.

THE Illawarra is bursting with bright red Illawarra Flame Trees as they come into full bloom.

To celebrate Australia’s first and only entry in the Solar Decathlon China 2013 Team University of Wollongong (UOW) Australia is holding the Illawarra Flame Tree Photography Competition to pay tribute to the namesake of their house – the Illawarra Flame.

Illawarra residents are being asked to make the most of the spectacular bloom and put their photography skills to work and submit their best images that capture the unique nature of the Illawarra Flame Tree.

Project manager Lloyd Niccol said Team UOW Australia’s entry to the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition was named the Illawarra Flame as it is representative of the house.

“The name the Illawarra Flame was inspired by the Illawarra Flame Tree which is not only a natural icon of our region, but is also representative of the transformation of our house. The seasonal transformation of the tree, to a profusion of red blossoms, is very similar to the retrofitting concept of the house,” he said.

As a part of this world-renowned international competition, the team is constructing a full size house in the Illawarra, and then shipping it to China for the competition finals in August 2013. The retrofitting concept will see the team demonstrate the transformation of an old Aussie ‘fibro’ house to a sustainable, net-zero energy home for the future.

Local photographers Dee Kramer and Mark Newsham will tackle the tough task of judging the entries, with finalists showing off their creative flair in a public exhibition.

“The Illawarra Flame Tree seems to be blooming better than previous years so the competition will be interesting,” said Mr Kramer.

Eleven members of Team UOW Australia recently returned from the China International Solar Energy Summit and SD China 2013 Design Development and Review Workshop in Datong, China, which will be the site of the competition.

“It was exciting to visit the competition site and see where we will be next August,” Mr Niccol said.

“An incredible amount of construction is going on at the moment around the site, which I think is real evidence of the importance the Chinese Government is placing on this competition. The site where the competition will take place is actually larger than the Beijing Olympic Park.

“The design review workshop was valuable in that we can now refine our plans and begin construction.”

Team UOW will begin construction of the Illawarra Flame at the TAFE Illawarra campus this month. The house will then be packed up and shipped to Datong next June. Team UOW will then reassemble the house over a 10-day period and compete against 22 international teams from 13 different countries. The Solar Decathlon China 2013 will be the first time a Solar Decathlon has been held in Asia.

For more information on the Illawarra Flame Photography Competition or to track the progress of the team, visit

The Solar Decathlon China 2013 is a student-led green building research and innovation competition. The competition will be hosted by the Chinese National Energy Administration and the US Department of Energy, organised by Peking University, and supported by private companies.

About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.


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