PV-clad buildings set to rise high

Environmentally friendly high-rise apartments that generate more energy than they consume could soon be built, thanks to a concept designed by researchers in the Netherlands.


The energy-positive apartment block, dubbed the Concept Urban Villa, was developed in a project led by Prof Mick Eekhout at TU Delft.

A façade of black solar panels fitted to the south, west, and east-facing sides of the block generate energy, while the building has a timber frame to minimise its environmental footprint. Material made from waste paper is used to insulate the building.

In the Netherlands, all new housing will have to be at least energy neutral by the end of 2020, as part of the country’s response to increasingly stringent EU environmental regulation.

But despite considerable efforts to design more environmentally friendly individual houses, very little is being done to develop energy neutral apartment blocks, said Eekhout, who recently presented the concept at the Climate KIC in Frankfurt. According to him, the concept is an attempt to show the construction industry what is possible with today’s technology.

“We wanted to show the building industry an extreme example of the vision that we should have in order to comply with the European ambitions of 2020, 2030, and 2050,” he said.

To generate enough energy to power each apartment, the solar panels have to be fitted to the façade of the building, rather than on the roof as in most houses.

But the advantage of this design is that it allows additional floors to be added to the concept without putting a strain on the amount of energy available.

“So once I have shown that by putting the solar panel cladding on the east, south and west facades the urban villa works as I predict, then the next step could be to go from four storeys to 8 or 12 stories high, because in this system the facades will take care of the energy, rather than the roof, so in theory you can simply extrude the building,” said Eekhout. “Then you have a possible solution for high-rise rise buildings.”

Prof Eekhout is now looking for construction companies to join a consortium, and hopes to find a location in a city such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam to build a four-storey apartment block to demonstrate the concept.