Featured Image: RMIT student Aminath Samaha using the BIPV Enabler during class. Image courtesy of RMIT University.

Melbourne-based university, RMIT, has developed a new software that aims to help engineers and architects incorporate building-integrated solar cells during the conceptual design phase of construction.

Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)’s are building features such as roof tiles, cladding and windows that double as solar panels. 

Depending on the dwelling, BIPVs can cover a greater area of a building, generating solar energy from different angles, and can be customised. 

Despite the potential of BIPVs, conventional roof-mounted panels continue to account for the lion’s share of new installations in Australia due to the extra complexity in predicting performance and sourcing BIPV technology.

However RMIT has created software to help architects and engineers incorporate, source and cost BIPV in a building’s conceptual design phase. 

The software, funded by RMIT and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is the first of its kind to be designed using Australian data. 

Project lead Associate Professor, Rebecca Yang, from RMIT’s Solar Energy Application Group said she hoped the tool, called BIPV Enabler, would help make buildings greener. 

“This is the perfect solution for building designers and developers looking to select the right solar option to suit their design,” Professor Yang said. 

“We’re making integrated-solar a more attractive option to developers, slicing the time it would normally take to research and implement incognito solar devices. 

“This isn’t just for new buildings either. Those looking to retro fit integrated solar into existing buildings will benefit too.” 

The tool integrates product, regulation, technical, economic and construction data to create 3D models and detailed lifecycle simulations tailored to each building’s planned location. 

It comes as the construction of Australia’s first office tower to be fully clad in solar panels was announced last year. 

The other challenge faced by designers and developers using integrated solar is choosing and sourcing materials, however the BIPV Enabler assists with both, boasting Australia’s first photovoltaic product database where Australian suppliers can be easily identified. 

Among the tool’s features are maps, a 3D shape library, solar visualisations, hourly weather data and pricing information for materials and feed-in tariffs. 

Professor Yang said that the BIPV Enabler also worked with computer-aided design programs and could be scaled and customised to incorporate other open-source datasets to suit changing needs. 

“We hope to see more buildings capable of generating solar electricity, while maintaining good design standards – a win for the planet and aesthetics, ”said Professor Yang.  

Featured Image: RMIT student Aminath Samaha using the BIPV Enabler during class. Image courtesy of RMIT University.

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