A photovoltaic thermal roof developed by BlueScope Steel has helped a team of students from the Illawarra region win an international competition to build the most energy efficient house.

Team UOW Australia, a partnership between the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra won the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition, beating 19 other teams from around the world. The BlueScope PV thermal roof developed in collaboration with the University of Wollongong's Sustainable Buildings Research Centre was one of the energy-saving innovations incorporated in the team's winning house. 

The innovative roof design channels heated air from underneath the thin film PV panels installed on the roof and ducts it into the house to pre-heat the interior and reduce the amount of gas or electricity required for heating. By directing air under the PV panels, the design also keeps the PV cells cooler to improve the efficiency of their solar electricity generation.

The use of the BlueScope PV thermal roof on the Team UOW Australia 'Illawarra Flame House' was part of the development phase of the new technology prior to its anticipated introduction to the Australian market.

The BlueScope PV thermal roofing technology’s development is being supported by a grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and a student scholarship that assisted Team UoW Australia to implement the technology on the Solar Decathlon house.

According to Building and Construction Applications Manager at BlueScope Research, Dr Rob Scott, the success of Illawarra Flame House demonstrates that BlueScope is a world leader in innovative, more sustainable roofing technology.

Team UOW Australia's winning entry took a traditional Australian fibro house of the 1960s and retrofitted it to reduce energy consumption. Two years of design and planning resulted in an energy rating increase of the retrofitted home from 2.2 to 7.4 stars, while total energy use decreased by 80%.

After three months of initial construction, the pre-fabricated house was transported to the competition site at Datong, west of Beijing, and erected in just 12 days.

The Illawarra Flame House will be relocated to the Innovation Campus at Wollongong University where it will be regularly opened to the public and will continue to act as a test-bed for BlueScope's PV thermal system.