Up-scaling and mainstreaming sustainable building practices in western China
Up-scaling and mainstreaming sustainable building practices in western China 

Future-oriented sustainable building materials/components in Europe - Part D: Advanced Building Integrated PV

      In Europe there are a variety of future-oriented sustainable building materials and components. These include insulation                   materials, windows and glazing systems, Phase Change Materials (PCMs), and Advanced Building Integrated PV (BIPV)                 systems. This blog post will describe the energy saving, insulation potential, and the application examples of Advanced Building       Integrated PV. For further details on insulation materials, advanced windows and glazing systems, and Phase Change Materials         please access the following blog posts:


Part A: Insulation Materials

Part B: Advanced Windows and Glazing Systems

Part C: Phase Change Materials (PCMs)


Two main aspects of Solar Photovoltaics in current and future building integration would be the panel technology and mounting technology. The efficiency of the panel technology lies in the transparency levels that can be achieved while producing the maximum energy possible. Mounting technology should enable smooth integration into the building and at the same time allow for smooth operation and maintenance.


Advanced Building Integrated PV (BIPV) systems

Technical details

Transparent systems

Transparent panels can be customized for their transparency, thickness, color and size. Transparency is typically achieved by encapsulating the photovoltaic cell in an encapsulation material and then sandwiching it between two layers of glass. The cells are spaced depending on the transparency that needs to be achieved.  Although technically these are not clear glass photovoltaic systems, the future generation polymer solar cells could be designed to capture light in visible and non-visible spectrum to create actual transparent PV glass. Color tint could also be added to these modules by using color glass or by applying coatings, although it comes at some expense of the efficiency

Opaque systems

The PV shingle modules use glass-glass modules containing high-efficient crystalline hetero-junction solar cells and are electrically connected using many thin wires in “smart wire” technology making them invisible from a distance.


Modern PV systems offer customization to be integrated into building façade as an external finish. Building elements such as shading devices like fixed shades and louvers could be replaced with PV panels to serve dual purpose of shading and energy generation. Sunspaces and sky roofs can be replaced with modern transparent/translucent PV panels instead of plain glass.

Transparent systems

Typical applications of such transparent PV glass in atria glazing systems, corridor glazing, staircase glazing systems, double glazed facades, roofing, canopy roofs, green houses etc. where high level of visual light transmittance (VLT) (>50%) is not required. They can also be used in window systems where high VLT is not required.

Opaque systems

Opaque PV panels can be typically integrated into building cladding systems, roofing systems etc.


Transparent systems

A demonstration building has been erected under B-first programme using advanced photovoltaic triple glazing system curtain-wall based on fibre reinforced composite materials developed within the project. A total of 10 PV modules will be installed covering an area of approximately 18m2, with a total power of 1.28kWp and generating an estimated annual energy of 1,229 kWh/year.


Opaque systems

+ Instead of mounting photovoltaic panels on building envelope, it offers both economic benefits and convenience in construction when the building components are integrated with photovoltaic cells.

For more information, please read our training handbook.

Polysolar Limited. (2015). Guide to BIPV Building Integrated Photovoltaics. Retreived from: http://www.polysolar.co.uk/_literature_138380/2015_Guide_to_BIPV 

BFIRST-FP7. Fibre reinforced solar technology: BIPV DEMOS. Retreived from: http://www.bfirst-fp7.eu/bipv_demos/ 

Sapa Solar. BIPV project - Living Tomorrow Brussels, Belgium. Retreived from: http://www.sapa-solar.com/BIPV-projects-living-tomorrow-brussels.html 

Construct PV. Case Studies: Züblin Demonstration Building (Stuttgart). Retreived from: http://www.constructpv.eu/case-studies/