Photo-voltaic Panels

Photovoltaic panels are a highly efficient way of lowering your electricity bills. If you had these installed, you would be generating your own electricity, therefore you would not need to pay for as much energy.

In fact, you could be getting paid for producing your own electricity! If you join the scheme, your energy provider pays you for every unit of electricity which you produce, and any electricity you produce but don’t use yourself can be sold back to the national grid.

Photovoltaic basically means converting light to electricity, with “photo” meaning light and “voltaic” meaning electricity. So I guess you could say that they do what is said on the tin, so to speak.

Back in the 1950’s, this technology was almost exclusively used for powering electrical circuits in satellites, but the range of uses for solar energy has grown considerably now, for example we now use it for calculators, electric vehicle charging stations. On a bright and sunny day, the sun can produce up to 1000 watts of energy per square meter of the surface of the planet, if we could harness this, we could easily power our homes and offices for free.

Photovoltaic cells are made of special materials, which are known as semiconductors, such as silicon which is currently the most commonly used. The flow of electrons from sunlight creates the current, and by placing, metal contacts either side of the photovoltaic cell, we can draw that current off of the panel for external use, powering things which require electrical energy. This current, together with the cells voltage defines the wattage which the ┬ásolar cell can produce.The panels don’t necessarily need direct sunlight, therefore they would work on cloudy days as well as sunny ones.

Architects are beginning to suggest using these sorts of technologies when designing projects for clients, as what they would pay for the installation now would be saved many times over as time goes on.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Solar panel

What a code 6 house is.

We are currently working on an exciting project involving a code 6 eco house. The design for this house has been assessed using the Code for Sustainable Homes.

The code is an environmental assessment system for rating and certifying the performance of new homes in the UK. It is a set of standards which are used in the design and construction of new homes with a view to encouraging continuous improvement in sustainable home building, and it is assessed at 6 different levels, with level 6 (or code 6) being the highest.

You achieve these levels by meeting 9 different pieces of criteria, and each piece of criteria is then combines to give you an overall score showing your homes overall impact on the environment. Level 6 is the highest level that you can attain for this overall score, it shows an exemplary development in terms of sustainability.

The 9 pieces of criteria categories are as follows:

  • Energy and CO2 emissions – operational energy and emissions of CO2.
  • Water -Both external and internal water saving measures.
  • Materials – Sourcing and environmental impact of materials used to build the development.
  • Surface water run-off – Management of surface water run-off from the development and the flood risk.
  • Waste – Showing storage for recyclable waste and compost, and care taken to reduce, reuse and recycle construction materials.
  • Pollution – The use of insulation and heating systems which don’t add to global warming.
  • Health and well-being – Good daylight quality, sound insulation, private space, accessibility and adaptability.
  • Management – A home user guide, designing in security and reducing the impact of construction.
  • Ecology – Protection and enhancement of the ecology of the area and efficient use of building land.

It all sounds rather expensive doesn’t it?

There are simple and inexpensive ways to gain credits towards each piece of criteria, for example; you could specify compost and recycling bins (it may sound too simple, but it can count towards the overall score). But as with everything, there are cheaper methods, like installing solar photovoltaic panels.

Currently, compliance with the higher levels of this code is voluntary as it is more expensive to reach. Some landowners and estate agents are selling sites with an agreement made with the buyer to make the buildings there reach a certain level of the code. To comply with each assessment criteria at certain levels, your DER (Dwelling Emission Rate) should be lower than the TER (Target Emission Rate), each level had a different minimum requirement TER.

This scheme puts zero carbon development at the top of industry agenda by the Association for Environmental Concious Building. Even if there was a zero carbon building, it would only reach level 1, which is the lowest level of the scheme assessment. This is because it is only reaching a high level of one piece of criteria, so to reach a higher level, the owner(s) of the building would need to look at improving on some or all of the other 8 pieces of criteria.

Some aspects of the assessment are restricted to the public this is so that the individual doesn’t have access to the information needed to calculate data and pass the code themselves. This information is kept by the CSH (Code for Sustainable Homes) to be used by paying customers. By doing this, the CSH are not only making sure that developers reach a certain standard when building homes, they’re also making sure that developers pay for the CSH standards by restricting the information.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.