Making renewable energy viable by minimising demand

The challenge appeared to be how to integrate as many functions as possible into a single element of construction, at the same time as optimising its overall performance. Adding more technical parameters into the design of each individual component makes the design more difficult, but the duplication of function can enable passive environmental features to be incorporated without additional cost. The primary objective for us is to design the building fabric as the primary or "passive" internal climate modifier, and only then introduce "active" building engineering systems to assist the building fabric to recycle ambient energy. The effective application of passive devices reduces the requirements for high-grade thermal and electrical energy to the level where they can be economically supplied from renewable sources. It becomes important to fully integrate solar technologies with those essential elements of the building fabric that must be provided to achieve shelter. As each passive system becomes optimised, and active renewable energy harvesting components such as photovoltaic cells become more affordable and building integrated, near zero energy input buildings become increasingly feasible. Any building can become carbon neutral if finances are unlimited and enough PV is included in its external envelope - however, a more viable design strategy must seek to minimise the demand for energy in order to minimise the area of PVs needed to match it. Incorporating PVs is often relatively straightforward, whereas minimising the building's energy loads so that the photovoltaics make a meaningful contribution to its overall energy requirements is often more difficult.

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