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Posts From December, 2019

What Will 2020 Bring?

It’s hard to believe but we’ve reached the end of 2019. It’s been an incredible year filled with some great accomplishments and exciting potential.
What Will 2020 Bring?

We started the year off recognizing Mandalay Homes as they offered rooftop solar as a standard product on their homes and Health E Community Enterprises’ Zero Energy Ready Home communities. We also took a look at a Utah-based project where Sonnen EcoLinx batteries will be used to manage peak energy use and provide emergency power.

Material advancements were also in the news throughout the year. We took a look at key solar developments like floating PV, molecular solar thermal liquid, and a water flow glazing technology that captures solar radiation for heating, preheating, domestic hot water, and the storage or expenditure of excess energy.

In addition to these materials, keep an eye on other products like translucent wood, self-healing concrete, and 3D printed houses that will continue to advance and make news in 2020.

Data and AI will also contribute to advancements in the construction industry. It’s clear data is already important in determining optimal design for the greatest energy efficiency. It will become more and more important for projects of all sizes and will allow for even better predictions on how long a project will take, and pinpoint any potential challenges during the design phase. Data collection will be imperative for our continued advancements surrounding energy and usage.

And don’t worry, robotics will not likely become fully “aware” in 2020, but you’ll still want to keep up with how people are strategically utilizing this technology. Whether for safety or labor reasons, robotics will enhance and compliment many aspects of the construction industry. Just like Spot - a robot (you can actually buy) that has the capability to Inspect progress on construction sites, create digital twins, and compare as-built to BIM.

Thank you for supporting EEBA this year. We look forward to everything the new year has to offer and can’t wait to see you in 2020!

 

Energy Efficient Buildings of the Future

A team in Bulgaria recently opened a project to exhibit and test water flow glazing technology.
Energy Efficient Buildings of the Future

A demonstration project in Sofia, Bulgaria, is showcasing a water flow glazing (WFG) technology that utilizes water as a transparent insulator. Referred to as InDeWaG (Industrial Development of Water Flow Glazing Systems) and developed in Madrid, the project will demonstrate and test the efficiency of the system and its ability to maximize solar in varying temperatures during both winter and summer, as well as in very different climates.  [Photo courtesy InDeWaG]

The project consists of a pavilion with three walls with panes that use the WFG. The remaining wall and the floors are insulated to help achieve nearly zero energy building standards (in accordance with Bulgarian legislation).

As explained in a Bulgarian article:

“Each pane has a continuous flow of distilled water and glycol. Inside each window, there is a constant flow of 70 litres of distilled water and 30 litres of ethylene glycol, which serves as antifreeze. Each transparent panel acts as an individual solar collector. Using solar cells, the windows absorb solar radiation and turn it into thermal energy to heat the building's interior.”

"The advantage of using liquids instead of air inside the glass is that water is denser, so it absorbs infrared light in a broader range,” says Miglena Nikolaeva-Dimitrova, a physicist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The captured solar radiation can be used for heating, preheating, domestic hot water, storage or expenditure of excess energy. Depending on the temperature of the water in the glass chamber within the window, the pane may act as either a heating or cooling unit. Temperature and humidity will be monitored consistently inside of the building and data collection for the demonstration pavilion will continue for 10 years.

Researchers believe the technology is ready to go to market for smaller homes and buildings but are also eager to prove that it can work on larger buildings.

Water Water Everywhere

71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. That’s a lot of water.
Water Water Everywhere

Floating houses are not a new concept and can be found all over the world. Growing up surrounded by water I knew a family (of SIX!) that lived in a houseboat. It was normal. We have them all over Lake Union in Seattle.

But what I haven’t seen a lot of in the U.S. is floating PV (FPV). In 2008 an FPV array was installed in Napa but as of 2017, the U.S. only had seven “operational” floating solar arrays. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory believes there are “more than 24,000 human-made bodies of water throughout the country with the potential of generating 10% of the nation’s electricity using FPV.”

Other reports state that the demand for this product will grow steadily by an average of 22 percent from now through 2024. By the end of this year (2019) there will be about 340 floating solar installations completed globally in 35 countries (mostly in Asia). The market is primarily driven by countries with “high land costs, limited land availability, or ambitious renewable energy targets.”

As with anything, there are pros and cons to FPV.

One of the most obvious pros is that FPV doesn’t take up valuable land that can be extremely costly to buy and develop. If you’re paying top price for land you likely don’t want to use a large portion of it for a solar array. Floating solar also provides shade on the surface of water which decreases evaporation and water loss in hot months while the water cools the panels, creating better efficiency.

The cons include FPV not being a great option for individual households (more suited for larger-scale projects) and the current cost to install, resulting from the need for specialized equipment.

As FPV is more widely adopted most experts believe the install costs will drop exponentially.

As more projects are installed we’ll obviously obtain better data. And with better data it will become easier to implement improvements that need to be made to drive the cost down. And once the cost starts to drop, new markets should open up for FPV - including sea-based PV projects. Keep watching...it will be interesting to watch this technology and to see if it “floats”.

Improving Air Sealing Efficiency in Off-site Construction

Government funding and collaboration will help to improve energy efficiency in off-site construction.
Improving Air Sealing Efficiency in Off-site Construction

Earlier this year, AeroBarrier headed out to North Carolina to begin a pilot program at Volumetric Building Companies’ factory located in Hamlet. As part of a 3-year project headed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the pilot project is focused on both advancing energy efficiency in permanent modular construction, as well as discovering pathways for faster, more advanced manufacturing capabilities.

AeroBarrier was applied to a sample group of modular units to create initial baseline data.

This particular pilot project aims to prove the advanced air sealing techniques can be completed inside the factory both quickly and efficiently, and without substantial leakage losses during shipping and placement of the units on-site. Once the units are installed on-site, the boxes will be re-tested to verify how the in-factory air sealing held up during transportation and setting on-site.

The units were tested before and after the application of the AeroBarrier product using a blower door. The initial in-factory before and after data collected shows a reduction in envelope leakage ranging between 46.5% - 72.9%. More data will be collected after the units are placed in early 2020.

Also of note, the ICC recently announced they will be developing new standards with the help of the International Code Council Off-Site & Modular Construction Standards Committee. The main topics will include two standards focused on:

  • Planning, Design, Fabrication, and Assembly and
  • Inspection and Regulatory Compliance

 

NREL is also looking forward to working with the Committee to create energy standards for factories.

Subscribe to the EEBA Newsletter for more updates on this project as well as more energy and high performance news.