Solar façade enables buildings to produce energy

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A new innovative façade able to turn solar energy into heat will be installed next year on a Spanish building…

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but a building in Merida, Spain will produce its own energy through specialist technology on the façade. The complex insulation system, which has been fully tested, is now deemed safe for use.

The industrialised façade system uses innovative technological solutions that can be applied to many types of buildings and aims to reduce the energy demand in old buildings across Europe.

The need to create more energy efficient buildings is mounting. According to a SMART 2020 study carried out by NGO The Climate Group, the worldwide energy consumption of buildings is expected to grow 45 per cent from 2002 to 2025.

Julen Larraz Astudillo, architect at the Sustainable Construction Division of the TECNALIA research centre, said: “This system provides the tools for producing energy as well as insulating the building better: two major issues of the coming years in Europe. “

The façade underwent rigorous testing before it was deemed fit for installation. This included resistance to fire, water, wind, impact, acoustic, and permeability.

Astudillo said the fire tests were the most difficult. “We had many concerns about it, due to the new composite materials the façade is made of (glass fibres and an organic binder) and to the complexity of the units.

“Many of them had different technologies and elements that could fail the test.”

The tightness of the technological units were also tested to ensure water would not cause any damage or adverse issues. The development team had to make sure rainwater could not get into the inner side of the façade, as this could deteriorate the product.

The façade, which was developed under the MeeFS research project, also underwent heavy object impact tests. The wind trial saw the façade subjected to pressures of 305 kg/m2.

“We checked the different components of the façade; they didn’t break and the distortion of these elements lasted just one minute,” he added.

Additionally, the Advanced Passive Solar Collector and Ventilation Unit was also required to pass tests for acoustics and permeability, as it is connected to the interior and exterior sides of the building through holes made in the original façade of the building. This could weaken the sound insulation of the original façade or allow air to pass into the building.

Serge Galant, CEO of science and technology company Technofi, is working on the insurance policy for the field trial of the MeeFS innovation in Spain. He said: “All the tests have been successful: this means that the whole demonstration using such an innovative façade can be insured by insurance companies in the whole Spain, for the future use on any other Spanish building.”

Researchers admit their system is neither simple nor cheap. However, Astudillo is optimistic the façade will have a good return on investment.

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