Solar energy in refurbishment Advantages of solar energy

Refurbishment or other adaptation work can present an ideal opportunity to apply different solar energy options. It also presents challenges, however, because retrofitting such techniques in existing buildings can be difficult owing to the physical constraints and financial restraints involved.

'Solar energy is a clean and sustainable energy source and, therefore, has economic as well as environmental and social value' (ISE, 1997). It can be categorized into 'active' and 'passive' techniques. The former uses turbines, fans and pumps, some of which are often used in conjunction with passive systems. The latter uses the form and fabric of the building to admit, store and distribute primarily solar energy for heating and lighting (O'Sullivan, 1988). It has the following advantages:

• Energy is saved. For example, according to the ISE (1997) an annual energy demand before refurbishment of 200kWh/m2 to 100kWh/m2 after standard refurbishment was achieved; in one scheme a further reduction down to 50kWh/m2 was obtained after solar refurbishment.

• Thermal and visual comforts are improved.

• Maintenance problems are reduced.

• The architectural image is enhanced.

• The utility of the space is enhanced (better indoor comfort conditions are achieved).

The main passive solar techniques can be divided into two areas: solar thermal and PV (see below).

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