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Solar Architecture

Designing the buildings of the future

The CIS Tower, Manchester 391.0 kWp

Solar photovoltaics enable Architects to create buildings which produce their own low carbon energy, whilst creating unique and visually stunning designs.

Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)
Versatility:
From refurbishments and renovations through to new build projects, solar architecture can be incorporated into almost any building project using a selection of versatile solutions. Photovoltaics (PV) provide a unique way for buildings to harvest energy from their environment, capitalising on solar radiation as well as minimising solar gain. As rain screen cladding, plant screens, louvres and even glass laminates, photovoltaics can be considered as a unique and truly versatile building material.

Revenue generation:

Solar photovoltaic panels can be used in the same way as conventional materials for the external building envelope but with the unique advantage that they generate energy. This means the building can utilise the electricity generated to displace mains electricity, fulfilling the twin objectives of minimising environmental impact and saving money. Furthermore building integrated photovoltaics qualify for ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates) which can be sold or traded, meaning that each square metre will generate revenue for at least the next 25 years. PV systems offer an economically competitive alternative to conventional building materials. Costing only slightly more than aluminium and other metal facades, they repay the additional cost by generating their own revenue.

High-tech aesthetics:

Solar PV is also a high-tech solution with a unique aesthetic, which can be cheaper than other prestige materials such as marble or bronze. PV panels can be considered as a true building material and are available in blue or black to meet the architectural requirements of the building. As well as providing a state-of-the-art finish for any building, solar PV helps reduce carbon emissions and demonstrates a serious commitment to the environment.

Derby QUAD, Derby 9.0 kWp

Solar Architecture Options:
Solar Louvres
Shading is an important part of low energy building design that minimises glare and over heating caused by excessive solar gain. The use of louvres or brise soleil to shade south facing facades is a proven means of reducing solar gain, reducing the need for artificial cooling. Solar shading also reduces glare for PC users and increase occupant comfort whilst generating clean renewable electricity.

Plant Screens
Photovoltaics are an obvious choice as a protective solution for plant equipment and roof mounted facilities. Plant screens are naturally well positioned to incorporate solar panels, receiving a large amount of solar radiation on at least two sides of the building. Standard ‘cassette’ solutions, incorporating multiples of solar panels, are easily manoeuvred into position and can be mounted on a range of existing standard framing systems.

Solar Glazing
Solar Glazing is a unique combination of solar photovoltaics and glass, where the PV cells are laminated between two panes of specialised glazing. The resulting glass laminate serves the dual function of creating energy and shade at the same time. Solar Glazing can be used wherever conventional glass would be specified - such as curtain walling, atria, windows and shading canopies, and can be integrated into sealed glazing systems or conventional bolted glass structures. Laminates can be tailor made or bought in standard formats. Bespoke designs allow architects to vary light penetration by changing the spacing between individual cells. The finished effect of Solar Glazing offers a unique aesthetic, where natural lighting is combined with dappled shading to provide comfortable naturally lit spaces.

Solar Facades
Solarcentury offer two different Solar Facade options, both of which can be designed to meet specific building requirements:

1. Rain Screen Cladding
Vertical Solar Facades directly replace conventional rainscreen cladding materials providing a smooth, flat facade surface for any building, with a striking aesthetic. Vertical facades allow building designers to fit the most solar PV per square metre, giving the highest possible electrical power output for a given area. This solution is best for buildings where the area available for Solar Facade is limited.

2. Optimised Rain Screen Cladding
Optimised Facades replace conventional rainscreen cladding with rows of PV panels tilted towards the sun. This maximises the amount of electricity generated, offering up to 30% more energy from each square metre of PV panel. However, rows of panels are spaced to avoid self shading which means less PV panels per square metre. For a given area this solution offers a cheaper alternative to Vertical Solar Facade and provides optimal energy generation for the size of the PV system installed. It is best for buildings with large areas available for Solar Facade installation.

Fixing Details:
Using PV panels as rainscreen cladding is a tried and tested solution. PV panels are either pre-assembled in multi-panel cassettes and installed using a typical facade background support structure, or smaller panels are installed individually. Solarcentury’s PV facade solutions can be designed to interface with a wide range of existing horizontal and vertical background support systems such as the Eurofox MacFOX system. Vertical mounting systems are often used on brickwork, concrete or masonry, whilst horizontal mounting systems are used on beam and column constructions. Whatever the style or structure of your building, Solar Facades can be installed in place of conventional rainscreen materials.

Case Study: Solar Rain Screen Cladding CIS ‘solar tower’ Manchester
In June 2005, the Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) asked Solarcentury to develop a solution for creating a facade at their head quarters in Manchester with PV panels. Arup then employed Solarcentury to act as PV consultants and system integrators, providing specialised PV knowledge and design. The project created the largest commercial solar facade in Europe, and is one of the largest PV systems in the UK. It demonstrates how Solar Rain Screen Cladding can be readily incorporated into building refurbishments to provide an extremely cost effective alternative to conventional cladding materials. The CIS solar tower will generate enough electricity to light 61 average three-bed houses every year. www.solartower.co.uk

Case Study: Solar Louvres Environment Agency, Red Kite House
Red Kite House is an Environment Agency office in Wallingford, England. The Environment Agency comissioned Solarcentury to design a brise-soleil canopy to provide shade to the interior. The PV panels form a louvre canopy on the concave south facade, by fixing the PV louvres to existing steel beams. Solar louvres were created by fixing the modules and the aluminium cowling to bespoke telescopic spindles on the ground, which were then lifted into position. Energy from the solar louvres, complemented by the energy efficient design of the building, will meet around 20% of the building’s annual demand for electricity. The solar louvres also reduce solar glare to the offices, which helps to keep the building cool during summer months by minimising thermal gain. This application therefore minimises the buildings cooling load to further reduce overhead energy costs.

Case Study: Solar Plant Screen Harris Academy, London

The Harris Academy in South Norwood was designed by John McAslan + Partners. Architect Fanos Panyides explains that when the building was submitted for planning consent one of the conditions of the local authority was that it should incorporate a certain proportion of energy services from renewable sources: “The challenge was that the building design was already substantially completed and we were working on quite a constricted site, so there was no room for technology such as a wind turbine. Solar photovoltaic cells were the only way of integrating renewable energy supply at that stage.” Solar cladding is the ideal solution for projects where space is limited. Meanwhile the ‘fit and forget’ nature of PV means it is a good renewable to choose for busy organisations where maintenance could be a costly issue. The PV panels were simply mounted on the south-facing elevations of the plant enclosures on the top of the school’s five blocks, with further panels mounted on the front of the building as cladding.

Case Study: Solar Rain Screen Cladding Manchester College of Art & Technology

Manchester College of Arts and Technology (MANCAT) has incorporated pioneering solar design in their North Manchester Sixth Form Centre. The south facade of the building is clad in a striking monolithic array of solar PV panels. Taking advantage of the building’s flat roof, rows of PV panels crown the building providing further clean energy. The new library roof also incorporates solar hot water technologies. Solarcentury provided specialised PV knowledge to assist in the design of the ventilated rainscreen cladding system on the south facade of the new development, offsetting building material costs of traditional cladding materials. The positioning of the solar modules in relation to the main wall created a “cladding void” to help regulate the internal temperatures of the building by minimising solar gain in the summer and, secondly, by encouraging a ‘thermal stack effect’ which helps to draw fresh warm air through the building spaces. This helps to minimise the year-round energy demand of the development and keeps the PV panels operating at their highest efficiency, maximising the contribution of the PV to the building’s energy requirements.

For advice and options on your solar architecture project contact Solarcentury now:

Tel: 0207 803 0166 email: [email protected]

Solarcentury is the only RIBA accredited solar photovoltaic CPD provider

Cover image: Quad, Derby 9.0 kWp
scm00012-08-10-08

All information correct at time of press

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