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BIPV? What's this?

Solar modules (or photovoltaics) produce electricity from sunlight. “Building-integrated photovoltaics" BIPV is the integration of these modules into a building envelope.

Specifically, we call a solar module integrated, if it is part of the building and thus replaces another elements of the building envelope. Depending on the definition, this refers to its constructional and to its aesthetic features. Solar modules designed along BIPV principles provide a variety of features, like weather protection, heat insulation, light- or acoustic shield, making it a multifunctional architectural element.

As integrated facade-material, the solar module becomes a permanent feature of the building, where it fulfils a practical role as a constructional element and as generator of green energy. On top of that - perhaps most importantly - it has to be integrated into the facade aesthetically. Therefore, BIPV modules have to primarily meet the aesthetic requirements too like materiality, visual appearance and proportion.

Integration of PV into a Building

Schematic illustration of the different opportunities to integrate photovoltaics into the building ©HZB

Challenges for multifunctional BIPV elements:

  • Costumized solutions (form, transparency, colour...)
  • standard elements that are economical and easy to plan with (i.e. BIM)
  • integration into novel facade elements
    → combination of building materials and electricity generating elements
  • high tolerance towards recurring (semi-)shadowing
  • legal aspects (materials, fire prevention, glaring, protection...)
  • certification and examinations, approval
  • Partnerships required with construction companies
    (module manufacturer is usually not a direct contractor on-site)

Challenges for architects and planners:

  • Gathering information about possibilities in design, technical solutions and boundary conditions
  • Use of further education and qualifications
  • Reduction of reservations
  • Communication with module manufactures
  • Acceptance of changes in common planning process
    (work flow, content, cost structure…)
  • Recognition of chances and responsibilities