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Designing Sustainable Buildings: Solar Energy #1

Do you find solar panels on buildings useful but ugly? We did too but we also love efficiency, renewable energy and zero consumption buildings. Luckily during the last years, architects and product designers seem intrigued to the challenge: some find new uses for existing technology, others create innovative new materials. It’s time to map our options. From the most simple to the cutting edge, here they are:



1. The “Hello World”: South facing tilted panels on horizontal roof. Energy efficiency rocks, looks disappoint. Heavily . Given that there are other options out there, we wonder why would anyone want to live in that building nor watch it opposite the road.

Although the image above could easily be the most boring example of solar energy power source on roof, this stadium in Japan is not.

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In fact it’s a fun example of how architects can add value to a sustainable project. Next!

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2. The New World: Panels placed on horizontal roof. Good energy efficiency, looks nothing too fancy but ok. Minus: an accessible roof cann’t be used for anything else. Also you have to be careful not to step over and break the glass that protects the silicon cells. Plus: No one except the birds can actually see the solar panels and your property does not look a freaking mess.

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It’s a good idea for buildings in old cities like this Vatican Solar roof. Next please!

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3. The Tilted World: Panels on slanted roof. Given that you place your photovoltaic power station on the roof you already have, this option is slightly less energy efficienct than the previous one but worlds apart aesthetically.

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This is so because not all roofs are facing south which is the best orientation to produce energy from the sun. This option is similar to option 2 as it follow’s the roofs inclination, but like option 1 the panels are easily visible.

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This housing unit in the UK is a good example of a project where the architects have worked miracles in incorporating prefabricated solar panels in the building’s shell. Next!

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