Integrated Solar Panels power new Office Block

A new Cambridge office block is being powered by integrated solar panels and encouraging its tenants to be more environmentally aware.

office windows

A new office block which was built to high environmental standards is aiming to improve its tenants’ productivity by up to 18%.

The Future Business Centre is a facility of 35,000sq.ft. which is intended to offer a mix of offices and workshop units as well as hot desk facilities for up to 125 social and environmental start-ups as well as 50 existing businesses.

Cambridge Cleantech, a membership group for local environmental businesses and the first tenant of the building, brings the centre’s focus on environmental causes in businesses to the fabric of the building itself.

Using rainwater harvesting, solar PV, solar thermal, LED lighting, and zoned smart metres in each unit, the building is also home to electricity generating glazing – one of the first building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products available.

The integrated solar panels, which are made my Polysolar, do all that glass does as well as powering the building. The glass covers a four-storey stairwell with 18sq.m of solar glazing, and another 50sq.m wall is fitted with Polysolar’s rainscreen cladding – a non-transparent, insulated, solar PV cladding which is fitted directly to the side of a building instead of brick or stone.

In operation at the Future Business Centre, the Polysolar products will reach peak wattages of 4.8kw and generate about 4,000kWh of electricity each year.

Additionally, the centre will benefit from taking around 15-20% of its power from around 200sq.m of roof-mounted solar PV. The prediction is that combined with Polysolar products, the building will generate something between 8 and 10.22kWh/m2 of electricity and save nearly 13 tonnes of CO2 per year – that’s 23% of the building’s total.

Hot water will be provided by the solar thermal panels whilst LED or low energy lighting and electric car charging points will also be fitted, although tenants will be encouraged to cycle or use public transport).

Smart metres installed in each unit will allow each user to see how much energy they are using, and individualised bills will encourage minimisation of energy consumption.

The building is naturally ventilated and concrete-framed, with a high thermal mass which removes the need for energy-gulping air conditioning systems.

The centre has come about in part due to the £3.6m grant from the European Regional Development Fund which emphasises the importance of low carbon economic growth.

In 2011, a United Nations Environment Programme report found that in offices, good air quality, natural ventilation, and localised heat improve productivity by around 18%.

Image by Garry Knight

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