RMIT Associate Professor Rebecca Yang with student Aminath Samaha using the BIPV Enabler during class

New software technology from the RMIT will allow much easier access to sourcing suppliers of building integrated solar photovoltaics. Along with the gamut of solutions needed such as identifying regulations, technical, economic and construction data to simulate results that relate to specific locations.

Building integrated photovoltaics or BIPV uses building features such as roof tiles, cladding, and windows to act as solar panels. The result is bigger coverage, more solar generation from various angles and customisable solutions.

But if the technology is so can be so good, why is this solution so rarely used?

According to the RMIT, BIPVs are quite complex. They involve predicting the performance of the technology. And that’s before potential users can even source the BIPV technology. The BIPV enabler tool seeks to solve this problem by introducing Australia’s first photovoltaic product database where Australian suppliers can be identified.

The software also helps integrate product, regulations, technical, economic and construction data to create 3D models and detailed lifecycle simulations tailored to each building’s planned location.

These included maps, a 3D shape library, solar visualisations, hourly weather data and pricing information for materials and feed-in tariffs.

BIPV in action.

Associate professor Rebecca Yang, the project lead from RMIT’s Solar Energy Application Group said she hoped the tool, funded by the university and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, would make future buildings greener.

“This is the perfect solution for building designers and developers looking to select the right solar option to suit their design,” Yang said.

“We’re making integrated solar a more attractive option to developers, slicing the time it would normally take to research and implement incognito solar devices.”

The research was spurred by the introduction of Australia’s first office tower to be fully clad in solar panels in West Melbourne last year. The 550 Spencer development uses a north facing, photovoltaic glazing system to capture solar energy and glass windows to the south to reduce solar heat gain.

Developers claimed that the energy harvesting capacity is 50 times that of rooftop solar panels on a standard house and the system allows the building to save an estimated 70 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

The building was designed by Kennon and owned by developers Colliers and Gross Waddell ICR, managed by Neoscape, and constructed by Crema Constructions.

Yang, the Australian PV Institute director driving the BIPV alliance, said the software also worked with computer-aided design programs and could be scaled and customised to incorporate into other open-source datasets to suit changing building needs.

“We hope to see more buildings capable of generating solar electricity while maintaining good design standards – a win for the planet and aesthetics,” Yang said.

“This isn’t just for new buildings either. Those looking to retrofit integrated solar into existing buildings will benefit too.”

Lecturer in architecture at RMIT, Nic Bao, said the tool will help bridge gaps between BIPV technology and architectural design, and the incorporation of factors such as climate, building code, and materials has made solar-savvy designs more accessible. 

“There are so many technical factors to consider when integrating BIPV into a design that it hadn’t been a popular choice, which was a missed opportunity,” he said.

“Making BIPV design more accessible promotes sustainable development of energy-efficient buildings while providing opportunities for low-carbon architecture.”  

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *