Making Active Solar Energy to Work in Buildings

Active solar could supply 10% of the world’s electricity by 2050 as technological solutions are developed

Architectural solutions that explore sunlight, sun heating, promote more social, cultural and aesthetic values in straight relation with the surrounding environment. The passive solar gain for space heating and day light has always been the part of architecture since ages. Active Solar technologies are also not new but have been around for several centuries. The first recorded use of solar energy was by 16th century’s Arab Alchemists for the production of portable water from saline or brackish water called distillation. In 18th century Horace de Saussure constructed successfully a rectangular hot box out of half –inch pine lined with black cork and three panes of glass. Sir John Herschel and Samuel Langley carried out the similar experiments in 19th century, focused on solar hot water and developed the black water tanks that were directly heated by the sun. The early solar technologies were solar thermal systems, it was purposed to capture solar radiation as heat and transfer it to a working fluid (water or water mixed with propylene) and distributed to the storage tank for service hot water. The primary components of an active solar system were the solar collector, storage and a distribution system. The technology of photosynthesis had evolved in 19th century with the photovoltaic effect in solid selenium by W.G. Adams and R.E Ray (1877).Light from the diffused, direct and reflected solar radiation generally freed electrons in photovoltaic cells that in turn initiated an electric voltage. Modern day active solar technologies were developed with a number of related components including both the mechanical means and electrical energy for their operation
Now a days many universities and institutes are active in aspect oriented development of active solar energy. The main areas are:  reducing the cost and make solar cells more energy efficient to compete with the other energy sources, effectively –developing new materials to absorb more light and generate more electric current- developing the integration qualities of solar cells for architectural design.
Many years of development in PV technologies have modified the original design of solar panels and diversified the solar cells for seamless integration into the building envelope.Multifunction use of solar cells in the buildings can enhance overall energy performance by reducing conventional components and material redundancy.
At the present time, as a sustainable design concern, it is time to revive the ancient idea that sunlight and architecture can be combined to provide human comfort as well as protection from an increasing hostile ambient environment.

Sources: Solar Energy and Its Uses, Pinnacle Technology. The Greening of Architecture: A Critical History and Survey of Contemporary Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design


Cross section of langley’s hot bo, which was similar to Saussure’s later models

PVs Panel 1830


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Personal Integrity for Sustainable Built Environment

The clean environment is no longer a matter of institutional arrangements, global governance or development strategy as it seemed to be until the start of this century. Efforts are made to reduce or limit the effects of climate change –focusing on limiting the emission of all greenhouse gases, especially to reduce the emission because of energy production and consumption. One answer is to replace and retrofit the use of fossil fuels or nuclear energy with alternative energy .The clean alternative energies produced by renewables can help to fulfill the energy needs of the world in 21st century and beyond.
In the struggle for clean energy, the normative and regulative dimensions of the retorts should be decisive -not just to covert a plea for renewed confidence in the technological ingenuity or commercial approach to the sustainability. Save the planet cannot take as a secondary issue or an afterthought but should top the agenda. It needs positive obligations and actions -the slogan “Don’t pollute” is not enough.
The need for scaling up renewables is now undisputed and requires expanded efforts for everyone in its own domain. Switching the to the sustainable life style needs not only the commitments from both public and private institutions but the force of personal integrity.

As an architect I acknowledge that the buildings can make a huge difference in clean energy and environmental sustainability. Adopting the active solar technologies into architecture is the best way to reduce the fossil energy use that consequently reduces the carbon footprint and global warming impact. The energy consumption in building sector is 40% (with 36 % C₂O emission). Heating and cooling systems use 60% of this energy while lights and appliances use 40%. Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in two distinct areas for the buildings: electricity generation and hot water/space heating. By carefully applying the design principles that capture the natural resources for day light, electricity and DHW, the energy use in the buildings can be reduced dramatically.
If the renewable heat is encouraged then solar heating is the obvious solution. In compare to wind energy and biomass or hydropower, solar systems are extremely suited in the built environment .The solar systems are excellent choice to overcome the lack of space because of no extra space is required for mounting construction of the modules. Moreover, the generated energy will be very close to the users and save the extra cost of energy transportation.
Accelerating the transition to a Solar -based energy system in the building’s architecture presents a unique opportunity to meet climate goals while fueling economic growth, creating new employment opportunities and the balance towards low-carbon investments.



Posted by Shaista Farooqi in Tech category, 1 comment