The sun's energy is constant, renewable, and never-ending. So is there a way to harness this energy and use it in our designs to make them more sustainable?
The answer is yes. Technology like Photovoltaic cells and thermal collectors are nowadays increasingly being used in modern architecture to create energy-efficient structures.
There are two main ways in which our sun's energy can be utilized:
- Photovoltaic Cells - Roofing, Facades, Shading
- Photovoltaic Thermal Collectors
1. Photovoltaic Cells - Solar Panels
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, made from semiconducting materials such as silicon that convert sunlight into electricity.
When sunlight hits the PV cells, it creates a flow of electrons that can be captured and used to power electrical devices. The electrical output from a solar panel depends on:
- The size of the panel
- The angle and orientation of the panel relative to the sun
- The amount of sunlight
Solar panels are used on roofs, walls, and even facades to provide clean, renewable energy to buildings.
Solar panels are often installed on the roof of a building to generate electricity and reduce the building's energy consumption.
The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability At Sandy Ground
This net-zero building, designed by SOM, has PVC panels on the roof as well as a southern facade. In fact, this school is the first net-zero public school in the world.
Solar panels can be integrated into building facades to provide clean, renewable energy while also improving the aesthetic appearance of the building.
The Blauhaus, Niederrheim University
The building has rows of alternating windows and solar panels for the facade, that can be rotated to follow the sun's direction.
Solar panels can also be used to provide shade for buildings, reducing the need for air conditioning and increasing the energy efficiency of the building.
The Further Education Center at Mont-Cernis
This education center, designed by HHS Planer + Architekten, has a highly structural canopy made of solar panels that also provides shade for the interior of the building.
Photovoltaic Thermal Collectors
Photovoltaic Thermal collectors or PVT collectors combine energy and heat generation and collection into one. It is more efficient than regular PVC modules.
This technology is similar to PVC cells. The additional advantage of thermal collectors is that they transfer the otherwise unused heat from the photovoltaic module to a heat transfer fluid to be used for thermal regulation.
The heat collected is then used for domestic water usage, heating of swimming pool water, water processing for industrial heating, agricultural drying, etc.
Residential Units in Paris, France
This flat system in Paris has solar collectors on the facade. The heated water is used for thermal regulation and domestic water usage.
PV cells and collectors are used in a variety of ways to create sustainable and energy-efficient buildings. These technologies play an important role in reducing energy consumption, lowering energy bills, and minimizing the environmental impact of buildings.
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