Starting with the pioneer works of TU Munich (R. Krippner, T. Herzog) and AEE INTEC (I. Bergmann, W. Weiss) who first pinpointed the general lack of design as one of the main reasons for the low spread of solar thermal, EPFL-LESO (M. C. Munari Probst, C. Roecker) explored in detail the reasons for such a disadvantageous situation, and indicates possible ways leading to improvements [1, 3].
Polymeric Materials for Solar Thermal Applications, First Edition. M. Kohl, M. G. Meir, P. Papillon,
G. M. Wallner, and S. Saile
© 2012 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. Published 2012 by Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.
Because solar systems are relatively large in relation to the building envelope, the architectural quality oftheir integration has a major impact of the visual quality of the building . This should, together with the fact that public acceptance of solar energy depends to a high extent on the quality of the architectural integration, stimulate and motivate a much stronger focus on making solar systems visually appealing – something people really would want to put on their houses and something architects would want to implement in their design of new buildings.
In the most developed solar thermal markets, combined systems for both domestic hot water preparation and space heating/cooling are increasing their market share. Such systems cover a bigger part of the total energy demand in the building, but require larger areas for collector installation. In this perspective, the implementation of solar thermal collectors into facades becomes very interesting. Here large areas can be found. However fagade integrated collectors are visually exposed to a much higher extent than roof integrated collectors:
Fagade integrations are much more delicate than their roof counterpart because of the high visibility of the collectors. As the fagade is the public face of the architecture, the collectors cannot simply be used as added technical elements; their architectural integration needs to be satisfactory and the design controlled .
Evaluation of architectural quality is a complex debate and a very hot topic in architectural sciences nowadays. The topical importance has resulted in a new IEA SHC Task (41) – “Solar Energy and Architecture” – dedicated to the architectural aspects of solar technologies and applications. This is the first time that the word “Architecture” appears in a task title, after 30 years of IEA research and 40 tasks, which mainly focus on solar technologies for building application. One of the main objectives of Task41 is to define general architectural quality criteria and extract recommendations for solar components/systems, to support manufacturers in developing existing products as well as new products (http://www. iea-shc. org/ task41/).
This first opportunity given to the architects’ community to have a major impact on the development and diffusion of the solar thermal technology could help shorten the time needed to develop new, architecturally adapted, solar collectors. Being associated from the start to this process, architects will also be more open to implement these new components in their work, and/or propose innovative solutions to use standard elements.
Our (the IEA-SHC Task 39 group) approach to the topic is to look at successful architectural integration as a marketing tool, simply because we believe that people are inspired by visual impressions. The appearance of a product certainly counts in making a first impression on a customer and often plays a decisive role in the final decision to buy or not. Effective use of design and high visual quality adds value to the product and builds trust and confidence. Attractive design also helps in differentiating between competing products.
When it comes to solar thermal systems, the collector design is only one part of the final product. Placement of the collector field and good architectural integration is also very important for a final result that will be judged by the public. To focus on showing really good examples of harmonious and well designed solar thermal
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systems can be an important parameter for market development and help to redefine solar thermal to the public as something high-tech, good looking, and sustainable, giving an added value to each building.