Paul Emmons

Buildings of the Future

State-of-the-art technology to help transform buildings into energy producers is being developed at a research institute based in the Welsh School of Architecture.

The Low Carbon Research Institute – a multidisciplinary partnership of six universities including Cardiff, Glamorgan, Swansea, Bangor, Glyndwr and Aberystwyth – aims to promote energy research in Wales to deliver a low carbon future.

Its newest venture, the Sustainable Building Envelope Demonstration project, takes technology developed at the LCRI’s Sustainable Building Envelope Centre (SBEC) in North Wales, providing a showcase for testing and monitoring the latest techniques.

Funded by the Welsh Government through European Structural Funds, the project looks at energy-generating devices that can be used in the built environment.

Professor Phil Jones, Head of the Welsh School of Architecture, said: “The main features of these so-called ‘smart buildings’ include two key components; the first being a Transpired Solar Collector, or air collector, which acts as an extra layer of cladding that goes on the south facing façade and heats the building.

“Studies have shown that up to 50 per cent of a building’s heating could come from this type of system. It supplements the boiler, rather than replacing a heating system entirely, so it could be used to heat the building or to store heat for later use.

“The second component is Solar PV, and we’re looking at ways of integrating it into building design – ideally it would be part of the cladding system, rather than a bolt-on feature.”

Other areas of SBEC’s research include low energy lighting using LEDs, heating systems powered by renewable energy, and the sustainable use of locally sourced materials such as timber and steel.

The design and consultancy work being done at the LCRI is also carried out on buildings and developments across the world – including several projects in China, where the team recently refurbished a temple in Guangzhou to create an small conference centre for South China University of Technology.

Following his recent appointment as Chair of the newly established Building Regulations Advisory Committee for Wales, Prof Jones is keen to use his new role to gain an insight into how research into the built environment should be developing. He said: “The most important thing is that we are able to develop new technologies and apply them at a speed that industry and society can accommodate. You have to get that balance right.”

Above taken from Cardiff News February 2012 Volume 18 No. 5 pg. 12