Exeter University – Intergrated Wall Cladd Commercial Solar Water Heating
At Birks Hall of Residence, nestled within Exeter University in Devon, a groundbreaking approach to solar water heating has emerged. While solar panels have become a common sight atop buildings worldwide, this installation at Exeter University stands out for its innovative integration. Instead of mounting solar panels on the roof, these panels have been artfully incorporated into the walls of the Birks Hall building, enhancing both functionality and aesthetics.
Architectural Unity and Modern Design:
The Birks Hall of Residence showcases a contemporary architectural style, and the integrated solar water heating panels contribute to the overall design’s unity and coherence. To the casual observer, these panels seamlessly blend into the building’s facade. If you look closely, you’ll find them discreetly positioned within the central window sections. Two panels, when combined, create an elegant black square of solar thermal technology framed by windows on either side. This approach demonstrates that sustainable energy solutions can be both economically sound and visually appealing when integrated into new construction projects.
Project Insight from John Turner: John Turner, from Celtic Renewable Energy, provides valuable insights into this unique project. The Birks Grange building, a part of the University of Exeter’s ambitious expansion plan, is designated for student accommodation. Leading the construction efforts are Cowlin Construction, with Mitie Ltd handling the mechanical and electrical work.
Solar Panel Configuration: A key feature of this project is the utilization of 16 Award-Winning LSP20+ Premium Commercial solar water heating panels. These panels are strategically divided into two banks of 8, each situated on the left and right sides of the building’s exterior. The pipework extending approximately 35 meters connects the panels to the building’s basement, where two 700-liter unvented preheat cylinders are located. Each cylinder operates independently with its pump station, efficiently controlled by a single controller. This setup ensures the seamless supply of solar-heated water throughout the building.
Aesthetic Considerations: One of the primary challenges of this project was to seamlessly integrate the solar panels into the building’s design, ensuring they harmonized with the overall aesthetics. Hot Solar Water, a trusted supplier with over four decades of industry experience, played a crucial role in achieving this objective. Their expertise was invaluable in ensuring that the panels did not appear as an afterthought but rather enhanced the building’s visual appeal.
To achieve a cohesive look, technicians at Hot Solar Water embarked on designing a completely new housing for the horizontal solar panels. This innovative design gave the panels a “picture frame” appearance, ideal for mounting on the vertical wall adjacent to the south-facing windows. Beyond aesthetics, meticulous attention was given to paint color matching (Ral number) to ensure the panels seamlessly blended with the windows and cladding used on the building. The successful implementation of this design not only enhances aesthetics but also underscores functionality.
Exeter University’s Birks Hall of Residence exemplifies how innovative thinking can elevate the integration of renewable energy solutions into modern architecture. The strategic placement of wall-clad solar water heating panels not only contributes to sustainability but also enhances the visual appeal of the building. This project underscores the importance of collaboration and expertise in realizing high-profile, aesthetically pleasing, and functional solar water heating solutions.
As the world continues to embrace renewable energy, projects like these serve as beacons of inspiration, demonstrating that sustainable technologies can seamlessly merge with contemporary design, ultimately shaping a brighter and more sustainable future.