The FIU-Tsinghua University team finished fifth among 20 teams from around the world in the inaugural Solar Decathlon (SD) China competition held August 2-10 in Datong, China.

The competition to develop an energy efficient, cost-effective and attractive solar-powered house is comprised of 10 contests. The team earned top honors in four of the five measured contests — including a first place win in Comfort Zone, full points for Energy Balance and Hot Water; and a second place finish in the suite of competitions that makes up the Home Entertainment contest.

Among the five juried contests, the team earned third place in Solar Applications, fourth place in both Architecture and Market Appeal, and fifth place in Engineering.

O-House entry

FIU-Tsinghua team’s O-House entry in the Solar Decathlon China 2013












Two students from the FIU College of Engineering & Computing, Michele Markovits and Kun Bao, traveled to China to help with the on-site construction, which began July 15. They were later joined by three faculty members: Marilys Nepomechie, professor of architecture; Yimin Zhu, associate professor and graduate program director in the OHL School of Construction; and Cheng-Xian “Charlie” Lin, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. They teamed with 40 students and four faculty members from Tsinghua University.

Representatives from the two universities first met in September 2011 when Zhu and Professor Irtishad Ahmad, director of FIU’s OHL School of Construction, traveled to China to discuss details of collaboration with the team at Tsinghua University.

Bridging a distance of 7,000 miles, a group of about 20 students and faculty FIU communicated for nearly two years with a team of more than 50 students at Tsinghua University via Skype, phone and email, sharing documents on Dropbox to work on the design of a house approximately 800 square feet in size.

Lin described the experience as unforgettable. It was particularly amazing, he said, to watch FIU students and Chinese university students working side-by-side. Everyone was very impressed by what the team accomplished.

“The competition was very intensive,” he said. “In the end, it is the spirit to participate and the desire to contribute in the solar house development that will last. I think the experience working in a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural team will impact the life and career of every faculty and student member for years to come.”

By James Hellegaard