Efficiency built in

Ruukki UK Ltd discusses a revolution in creating energy efficient buildings – through solar power

Throughout the construction industry it is widely recognised that one of the challenges we all face long term, is to deliver truly sustainable building envelopes. Legislation and accreditation schemes such as BREEAM and LEED have become widely adopted in non-domestic new build and provide a framework for designers working towards improving performance.

The façade cladding is no longer just a passive raincoat. This is one step on the mission for building architecturally high standard and sustainable environment for all of us.

Pushing something innovative through the construction industry is not easy. Add in the fact that we are struggling with an economic crisis and at the same time facing even higher requirements for using renewable energy sources and increasing buildings’ energy efficiency, and the challenge is clear. There is a need for new innovative products but cost efficiency is crucial, even for first generation of new products to penetrate the market.

However whenever we start to focus on cost efficiency, it can lead to a situation where design and architectural points of view start to be less important and are seen as an expensive and exclusive add-on.

Challenging that way of thinking, things should not be seen as ‘either or’ but ‘both and’. Affordability does not exclude good design. Affordability and good design combined with functionality creates value for the environment where we all are living. Also an aesthetic, visually pleasing and sustainable environment is value itself.

A renewable construction material in focus is Solar PV, where a photovoltaic system converts solar radiation directly into electricity. This sustainable way of building can be used on both domestic and non-domestic properties, on new builds and on existing buildings, in fact it can be used almost anywhere. Of course the effectiveness of using this type of system is limited by the position in relation to the sun – south facing roofs and façades achieve optimum results whilst on north facing areas there is little return on the investment.

A leading construction product manufacturer – Ruukki – has spent much time and energy developing and innovating; producing new energy efficient products to meet the demands of the industry and legislation whilst keeping the architectural vision in mind. Ruukki’s Solar Liberta is a Building Integrated Photovoltaic system (BIPV) that is pre-designed and delivery scope includes all the components and accessories required on the site. The photovoltaic modules fully integrated within the building façade so that they are an integral visual and functional part with no need for additional components on the façade or roof surfaces.

This kind of PV system enables renewable energy generation in crowded cities where there is little free space on the ground for energy production. It can be installed on new buildings, in refurbishment projects and on a variety of backing wall materials and types.

Another advantage of this system is that it is not dependent on solar heating; only on radiation. Therefore it can produce electricity during summer nights, or in cloudy or foggy weather. The appearance of the panels is shiny, smooth and almost black, and they provide a virtually seamless glass surface when installed. Liberta Glass has an almost identical appearance and can be specified and installed alongside Liberta Solar to give a unified appearance to the façade. Alternatively it can be chosen from variety of other colours enabling the possibility to create a glass façade as whole, or combine metal, glass and solar energy in an innovative way.

Another more recent product launched by the innovative company is Ruukki on-wall solar, a cost effective add-on system to accentuate large façade surfaces with discretely detailed photovoltaic (PV) fields. This is especially suited to new and existing buildings such as retail, industrial, warehouse and logistics facilities. The system is based on crystal silicon panels which convert solar radiation directly into electricity.

Similar to the Liberta Solar, electricity is gathered via cables behind the panels and it is transmitted to an inverter, which converts the electricity into alternating current (AC). As the system is not dependent on solar heating, it can also produce electricity in conditions where there is no direct solar radiation.

Taking energy efficiency one step further Ruukki has just completed the first near zero-energy building in its Scandinavian home, Finland. The purpose of the building was to show how economically viable it is to build a near zero-energy building in even the coldest northern climates.

“To our knowledge, the hall that has just been completed is the only one of its kind in the world. This new way of building results in energy-efficient, high quality comfortable buildings that save the financial resources of their owners. This building features a number of energy-producing and energy-saving solutions, including airtight wall panels and a roof and wall harnessing the solar energy. Product development at Ruukki is increasingly geared towards buildings that deliver greater benefit to their occupants,” says Petteri Lautso, Sustainability Director, at Ruukki.

Solar power was harnessed from the roof and walls: Ruukki Classic solar roof collects solar heat, which is conducted through energy piles into the ground. The heat stored in this way is used to heat the building during the winter. The building façade also features the Ruukki on-wall solar system,

The glass windows on the south-facing side of the building have been replaced by polycarbonate daylight windows, through which incoming light does not glare. These windows also insulate heat well and so prevent the sun’s thermal rays from heating the premises in summer. The airtight outside walls have been created using energy panels, which save heating costs. This in turn reduces lifecycle costs and carbon dioxide emissions.

Ruukki’s heating and cooling profiles based on solar radiation have been affixed to the underside of the ceiling. These cut the energy consumption used in air-conditioning and reduce temperature variations on each floor.

Ruukki Expression and Ruukki Forma products add to the impressive looks of the building. Expression enables any photographic image to be printed on to a façade, in this case a cloudy sky. Forma enables façade cladding products to be affixed to panels to give buildings a more multi-dimensional look. In this case, Cor-Ten rainscreen panels have been used.

Instruments and censors have been installed in the building structures to measure the functioning of the building’s structures and mechanical and electrical solutions, and to verify energy efficiency. The data generated will be used by adjusting the building to work as planned.

This building may help to revolutionise the way in which buildings are constructed to use renewable and energy efficient materials and proves that using these materials does not have to affect the visual aesthetics of the external envelope.

Ruukki specialises in steel and steel construction. It provides customers with energy-efficient steel solutions for better living, working and moving.

For further information please visit: ruukki.co.uk