Paving the way for self-sufficient buildings

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Buildings are energy hungry. Their construction and use accounts for around 39% of global carbon dioxide emissions. In the UK they consume around 40% of all the energy produced. So, they present a significant challenge to meeting national and international net zero targets of reducing greenhouse emissions.

But now, a multimillion-pound project based at Swansea University is paving the way for decarbonisation of heat and power in buildings, both in the UK and abroad.

The Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings (SPECIFIC) project has developed the Active Building design principle, which combines renewable energy technologies in one intelligent system, integrated into the building structure. The buildings provide occupants with low-carbon energy for heat, power and transport.

Supported by £7 million investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) since 2011, the project researches a range of solar technologies that can capture energy from the sun and store it in the building until it is needed as heat or power.

Examples of research impacts include a new roll-to-roll fabrication method for slot-die coated perovskite solar cells, which enables manufacturing at higher speed with more control and less material waste, and a thermochemical heat storage material that can store heat from the summer sun for use in winter.

With additional funding from Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, SPECIFIC’s staff also use their expertise to support others to develop low carbon technologies and buildings. One such partnership with social housing developer Pobl Group applies the active buildings concept to a development in Neath, South Wales. Active Homes Neath was a pathfinder project for the region, where local authorities now have plans to develop a further 3,300 new homes and retrofit an additional 7,000 homes with low carbon technologies.

Last updated: 11 March 2021

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