Design approaches and applications of photovoltaic technology : how can solar technologies be intergrated into urban commercial architecture?

Nguyen, Giang. (2004). Design approaches and applications of photovoltaic technology : how can solar technologies be intergrated into urban commercial architecture? B.A. Thesis, School of Geography, Planning & Env Management, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Nguyen, Giang.
Thesis Title Design approaches and applications of photovoltaic technology : how can solar technologies be intergrated into urban commercial architecture?
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning & Env Management
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2004
Thesis type B.A. Thesis
Supervisor Dr Richard Hyde
Greg Bamford
Total pages 81
Language eng
Subjects 1201 Architecture
Formatted abstract

The climate change that the earth has experienced in the past few decades has been widely attributed to the greenhouse effect. This damage to the earth's atmosphere has been caused by many things but it is the thirst for electrical energy that is one of the main attributors. Electrical energy has become so embedded in our daily lives that is has also become part of the architecture of this life. It is not that electrical energy is required, rather the method with which it is acquired. Current methods have damaging side affects to the atmosphere and the environment in general. As a result, Australia, as the highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world (Soorley 2004:21).

 

In Australian, architecture and the building industry account for 14% of pollution through construction and maintaining the built environment (Szokolay 1992:32). The energy requirements of architecture- operational and embodied energy- are the contributing factors to this fact. There have been initiatives in trying to reduce this figure, especially by those who follow the Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) approach to architecture and the building industry, but these are far and few between. Residential architecture has attempted to address the issue but it is in commercial architecture, the major contributors of the pollution, which have yet to make substantial strides.

 

As Wittman (1998) showed, there exist barriers to ESD architecture. These are wide and varied but of relevance to architectural design, are the conceptual design barrier. The cause of this problem may be that the focus of design moved from human comfort to "purity of form" (Colomban et al. 2002: 1) since mechanical air conditioning was introduced into architecture. It is also the consumption of energy through the use of the various energy dependant systems such as HVAC, electrical water, computer etc. The energy demand can be reduced through innovative design but cannot be extinguished (Melet 1999: 131); society and thus architecture has become energy dependant

 

Although the problem of environmental responsibility there are many projects that aim to become responsible for this such as large scale wind farms, but architecture also needs to become responsible for its own energy demands; one way of doing this is that it needs to generate its own energy (Melet 1999: 132).

 

The concept of energy-autonomous buildings arose in the 1970's as a reaction to the oil crisis. Questions of limitations on fossil fuel reserves were raised and the energy autonomous house was used to communicate the need for change (Wittman 1998: 69). These images are still now associated with 'green' or ESD architecture. They are characterised as "impracticability, ugliness, and incompatible with modern living standards" (Wittman 1998: 69). The alternative to this is the idea of "energy/ carbon neutral built environment", where all buildings buy and share energy from each other; the "balanced energy economy" (Melet 1999: 131). This theory was one that is similar to Buckminster Fuller's (1927) proposed "World Game".

 

Solar Photovoltaic technology is one that offers potential integration into architecture, a balanced energy economy. Expertise and product supply are available in many parts of the world, including Brisbane. Brisbane has high levels of solar irradiation and is a source of renewable energy that is in abundance. Electricity companies such as Energex offer to purchase electricity from grid-connected systems. This has been utilised in residential projects, but commercial projects are only starting with this idea. If commercial architecture also took up energy production as a theme, one could start to imagine a balanced energy economy-type scenario starting to emerge. Examples of energy-producing commercial architecture in Brisbane are far and few between. How one starts to perceive PV technology becomes an essential part of architectural design.

 

In the past PV technology has been viewed as an 'additive' to the design, since they were merely 'bolted-on' to the architecture. It is this theory that has created an even larger problem as many start to believe that they are an unnecessary financial burden. If PV technology were to become the integrated into architecture, it would make them harder to 'get rid of' and their potential role understood. They set out a new perception of'green' architecture and advertise the energy problem to the wider population. Wider knowledge can lead to wider demand and thus understanding of the responsibilities of humanity to the earth's ecology. But what approach does one take to integrate PV s into architecture? What viewpoint must one take when using energy as a design basis? To what degree can PV s become part of the architecture and the experience of it?

 

The following thesis aims to explore what design philosophies have been successful in integrating PV technology with commercial architecture. Emerging design theories concerned with Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) such as additive, invisible, determining design image, part of design image and technologically driven concepts are examined to determine which as been the most successful in achieving technology-integrated design. Which, if any, are most accessible for Brisbane's commercial architecture? In what way have they been successful? How does it interact with other components of architecture?

 

Each has their own strengths and weaknesses but it seems that any approach that makes PV technology part of the architectural image is the strongest. It manipulates the image of' green' architecture, and advertises the energy responsibility, and hence environmental responsibility, the architecture is responding to. It starts to educate the wider population on the energy crisis the global society is experiencing and exemplifies how architecture can be shoulder its own energy demands.

 

Energy generating architecture provides part of the solution to the greenhouse effect. It shows that commercial architecture can also contribute to this field and PV technology need no longer become an additive to the building. It reintroduces a way of tackling a global problem that has been of major concern to all. And it shows that PV technology can become an inspiration to an architectural design.

Keyword Solar Photovoltaic technology
Energy generating architecture
Greenhouse effect

Document type: Thesis
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