In central France lies Poitiers, a city rich in Roman architecture and medieval history. Modern building in Poitiers is constructing a new sort of history, however, an energy-efficient, solar-powered and potentially profitable history. Sipea, a local non-profit builder of social housing in the city, is installing solar electricity at its headquarters to sell back to the power grid.
Sipea’s homes are built to Passive House (PassivHaus in Europe) standards, which means they are very well-insulated, use passive solar heat to its maximum potential and utilize a host of other green building features. But what is most fascinating about Sipea’s Poitiers headquarters are the unique solar modules. Instead of typical solar modules, the building uses transparent solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity while allowing a speckling of natural light indoors. The solar cells are not wholly transparent. They’re spaced a bit apart and sandwiched between two high-efficiency panes of glass, thus allowing natural light through while protecting against direct glare from the sun.
The building has extremely low heating and cooling costs – a hallmark of Passive House design – which help facilitate the profitability of its solar electric system. The combination of that solar electricity, passive solar design, tight insulation and other green building tactics make Sipéa’s headquarters net-negative, meaning it creates more energy than it consumes.
The building-integrated solar system produces roughly 9,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which garners the organization a small profit thanks to energy conservation and France’s national feed-in tariff for renewable power. You might justly figure that the building must be tiny and short on creature comforts, but in fact, the new headquarters is much larger than its predecessor and has lower yearly operating costs.
Story and Photos Via Home Design Find